Milky Ways, Snickers, M&Ms, Whiskas, and Pedigree are known around the world but the man credited with that global expansion was a mystery, and that was just the way he liked it.
“Privacy at times today seems a relic of the non-media past,” Forrest E Mars Jr told Duke University business majors. It “allows us to do the very best we can… without being concerned with self-aggrandisement.”
Retired co-president Mars Jr was the 27th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $23.4 billion, according to Forbes. He died of complications from a heart attack while travelling in Seattle, aged 84.
Third-generation family members Forrest, brother John, and sister Jacqueline inherited the family confectionary from their father. Tough, frugal, and critical, Forrest E Mars Sr’s obsessive attention to detail and quality earned him the moniker “the Howard Hughes of candyland.”
Together the siblings grew an already significant American business into one of the world’s largest and most renowned family firms, boosting sales from $1 billion to $35 billion, and providing 80,000 jobs in 78 countries.
Mars today dominates almost one-third of chocolate sales in the US, became second only to Cadbury in the United Kingdom, and vies with Swiss Nestlé and Mondelez in the US for the confectionary market.
Forrest Jr was hailed by his company as “a unique visionary” who helped build the Mars business, while remaining true to the Five Principles that the Mars family set in stone to guide employees: quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency, and freedom.
The eldest Mars son attended Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, studied a Bachelor of Science degree at Yale in 1953 and completed his MBA at New York University in 1958.
He served as a finance officer in the US army and worked as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York. He joined Mars as a financial officer in 1959, working in the Netherlands and France, before his return to company headquarters in McLean, Virginia, in 1970.
Europe, Australia, and Japan were his expansion targets, followed by Russia, Mexico, Brazil, the Middle East, and China – where its market share is now 40%.
The modest-living executive supported environmental preservation efforts such as the American Prairie Reserve, and several projects in support of American history.
Another passion was sailing his expedition ship to some of the wildest places around the globe, including the Northwest Passage. He sponsored and often joined an annual trip for Hotchkiss students to Antarctica.
Forrest E Mars Jr is survived by his younger brother and sister and his third wife, Jacomien, plus four children, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
His four daughters with first divorced wife, Virginia Cretella, ensure Mars Incorporated remains a family business. Victoria B Mars is chairwoman, Valerie Anne is senior vice-president and head of corporate development, Pamela Diane sits on the board of directors after working on site as managing director of Mars Australia, and Marijke Elizabeth works in the company’s pet-food operations.