Mars chocolate recall: 6 things you didn't know about the confectionery giant

Mars and Snickers bars.
Mars and Snickers bars.PHOTO: REUTERS

American chocolate giant Mars issued a "voluntary recall" on Mars and Snickers bars on Feb 23 after a customer found a red piece of plastic in a Snickers bar bought on Jan 8 in Germany.

Even though Mars said the affected products were sold mainly in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) has also issued a recall on products labelled as Mars Netherlands.

This is the first time Mars has had to recall products made at its Veghel, Netherlands factory, which opened in 1963 and employs some 1,200 staff.

Here are six things about the company that you might not have known:

1. It is over 100 years old and its employees call themselves Martians


Boxes of Mars and Snickers chocolate bars in De Meern, Netherlands, on Feb 24, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

The global privately owned company started out as a family business in 1911 in Tacoma, Washington.

In 1929, founder Frank C. Mars, relocated the business to Chicago, Illinois, after the success of its first chocolate bar, the Milky Way. His son Forrest Mars Sr joined the company too.

Grandsons Forrest Mars Jr and John Mars, and granddaughter Jacqueline Mars inherited the company in 1999 after the death of Forrest Mars Sr.

Mars now has more than 75,000 employees, also known as Associates or Martians, with offices and factories in over 74 countries.

There are a total of 29 brands under Mars Chocolate (such as M&Ms, Snickers and Twix), 12 brands under Mars Food (such as Uncle Ben's, Masterfoods and Suzi Wan) and five under Mars Drinks (such as Flavia, Klix and Dove/Galaxy hot chocolate drinks).

2. It has a net worth of US$80 billion

The third-largest private company in the US generated a global revenue of US$33 billion in 2015.

Some of its notable products, such as Dove, Twix, Snickers and M&Ms, are worth billions of dollars, according to Fortune.

Known for being notoriously private, the Mars family was the third richest family in America in 2015, with a net worth of US$80 billion, according to Forbes.

The siblings shared the 18th spot on the 2015 Forbes 400 list with a net worth of US$23.4 billion.

3. It supplied M&M's to soldiers during WWII


M&M's candy dispensers. PHOTO: M&M'S

In the late 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, Forrest Mars Sr encountered soldiers eating small chocolate beads encased in a hard sugar shell which were part of their rations.

The "M"s stand for Forrest Mars Sr and Bruce Murrie, the son of a Hershey's executive. Mars had asked Hershey's to supply the chocolate because of limited cocoa availability during the war.

The heat-resistant and easy-to-transport candies were exclusively sold to the military after the US entered the war. They were only made available to the public after wartime quotas ended.

Forrest Mars Sr eventually bought out Murrie's shares in the company after that and took sole ownership of the M&M brand.

4. It produces pet food under brands such as Pedigree and Whiskas

Mars produces more than just gum, sweets and chocolates - they also have a petcare segment.

In 1935, Mars entered the petcare business after it acquired Chappel Brothers, makers of Chappie canned dog food.

There are 41 brands in Mars Petcare such as Pedigree, Royal Canin and Whiskas, with some worth as much as US$5 billion.

Mars also founded the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition almost 50 years ago that focuses on the nutrition and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, birds and fish, and their benefits to humans.

5. It is also involved in global health and life sciences


One of the trainers working with Mohammed Hussin Purung, a project coordinator for Mars' PT Mars Symbioscience Indonesia, showing farmers how to graft healthy saplings to cocoa trees in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on July 18, 2008. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

More than just a food and confectionery company, Mars has a research arm too.

In 2005, it set up Mars Symbioscience to develop solutions for people, pets and the planet.

According to the website, Mars Symbioscience (MSS) acts as an incubator for business ideas generated throughout Mars business segments.

Some MSS products include CocoaVia Cocoa Extract Supplement and Cocoapro Process.

6. Mars acquired Wrigley

In April 2008, Mars acquired gum company Wrigley for about US$23 billion. The deal was financed by business magnate Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway.

A Wall Street Journal report said that the deal had been contemplated for years.

People familiar with the matter say Mars had known for some time that it would one day woo Wrigley.

One person involved in the deal said that "it was a matter of when, not if".

Sources: Mars, Forbes, Fortune, History.com, Waltham.com