Forest Mars & the History of M & Ms Candies

A Legacy of the Spanish Civil War

M&Ms
Candy Dispenser Full of M&Ms. Getty Images

M & Ms chocolate candies are one of the most famous treats in the world, the most popular movie treat next to popcorn, and the most consumed Halloween treat in America. 

The well-known slogan by which M & Ms are marketed—"The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand"—is very likely a key to the candy's success, and its origins date back to the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War. 

Forest Mars Sees an Opportunity

Forest Mars, Sr.

was already part of a family-owned candy company in conjunction with his father, having introduced the Milky Way candy bar in 1923. However, father and son disagreed on plans to expand  to Europe, and in the early 1930s, estranged from his father, Forest moved to Europe, where he saw British soldiers fighting in the Spanish Civil War eating Smarties candies—chocolate candies with a hard shell, which were popular with soldiers because they were less messy that pure chocolate candies.

M & M Candies Are Born

Upon returning to the United States, Forest Mars began his own company, Food Products Manufacturing, where he developed, among other things, Uncle Ben's Rice and Pedigree Pet Foods. In 1940 he began a partnership with Bruce Murrie (the other "M") and in 1941 the two men patented M & M candies. The treats were initially sold in cardboard tubes, but by 1948 the packaging changed to the plastic pouch we know today.

 

The enterprise was a rousing success, and in 1954, peanut M & Ms were developed—an ironic innovation, since Forest Mars was deathly allergic to peanuts. In this same year, the company trademarked the familiar "Melts in Your Mouth, Not in Your Hand" slogan. 

Forest Mars Later Life

Although Murrie soon left the company, Forest Mars continue to thrive as a businessman, and when his father died, he took over the family business, Mars, Inc, and merged it with his own company.

He continued to run the company until 1973, when he retired and turned the company over to his children. In retirement, he started yet another company, Ethel M. Chocolates, named after his mother. That company continues to thrive today as a maker of premier chocolates.

Upon his death at age 95 in Miami, Florida, Forest Mars was one of the wealthiest men in the country, having compiled a fortune estimated at $4 billion.

Mars, Inc. Continues to Thrive

The company begun by the Mars family continues to be a premier food manufacturing corporation, with dozens of manufacturing plants in the U.S. and overseas. A great many name-recognized brands are part of its portfolio, not only candy brands, but also pet foods, chewing gum, and other consumables. Among the brands you may not have realized were related to M & M candies: 

  • Three Musketeers
  • Snickers
  • Starburst
  • Skittles
  • Bounty
  • Dove
  • Uncle Ben's 
  • Seeds of Change
  • Kudos
  • Big Red
  • Doublemint
  • Freemint
  • Altoid
  • Hubba Bubba
  • Juicy Fruit
  • Lifesavers
  • Wrigley's
  • Iams
  • Cesar
  • My Dog
  • Whiskas
  • Pedigree
  • Eukanuba