Mars Candies applied management skill to grow their company for more than 100 years. With a keen understanding of good management practices, this company has become one of the most popular places to work in Europe.
Mars Candies, based in McLean, Virginia, is now one of the most popular workplaces in Europe. Mars employs close to 15,000 European workers of almost 100,000 employees worldwide. The manufacturer of several popular candies and Wrigley’s gum, not to mention a number of pet-food lines, pet hospitals and even Uncle Ben’s rice, Mars has several key philosophic principles that have guided the company, keeping it successful through nearly 110 years of changing environments.
Mars’ Company Perspective
“Good products plus good people makes a good business” was one of Forrest Mars Sr.’s guidelines for running the company. It is a formula to which Mars has always adhered.1
From its origins in candy and confectionary products, Mars, Incorporated, has diversified to become a world leader in several other markets, including snack foods, pet-care products, main-meal foods, electronic automated payment systems, and soft-drink vending. In spite of its large size and geographic reach, the company remains privately owned. It has fostered an ostensibly egalitarian corporate culture since the 1960s. The company is notoriously secretive despite the millions it spends to promote its products. Although lagging behind rival chocolatier Hershey in the U.S. markets (32.2 percent market share to Hershey vs. 26.4 percent to Mars), Mars has stronger global operations and controls 15 percent of the world candy business.
Mars Is Rated No. 2 Place to Work in Europe and No. 3 in the World
It’s no easy feat to create a great workplace across national borders, but 25 multinational organizations appeared on Europe’s Best Workplaces lists published by Great Place to Work in Europe between June 2017 and May 2018.2 Companies that appear on this list have at least 1,000 employees distributed across three or more countries and have been recognized as great workplaces in at least three European countries. Of these top 25, Mars, with 14,594 European-based employees in 12 European countries of their workforce of nearly 100,000 worldwide, ranked No. 2. The top-ranked company in Europe as well as in the world is San Francisco–based Salesforce, with 3,520 employees in Europe and 32,000 worldwide. Mars now has employees in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, as well as the UK.
With Mars employing additional associates in Australia, Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean, Japan, South Korea and China, they also rated third on Fortune.com’s world’s best workplaces in 2018. No. 2 on that list is Hilton Worldwide.3 Mars employees say, “The work environment is one of a kind. We bring our pets to work, all of our desks are open layout, and everyone is like a family in this together. We have the freedom to come and go as we please, and no one is micro-managing us or checking to make sure we are doing what is expected. The 5 principles drive everything we do, and that has stayed consistent since day 1.”
The Five Principles Are Mars’ Guiding Rules
These Five Principles were laid out by Frank Mars, the founder of Mars Candies, as company policy and are still in practice in the company today.
- Quality: The consumer is our boss, quality is our work and value for money is our goal.
- Responsibility: As individuals, we demand total responsibility from ourselves; as Associates, we support the responsibilities of others.
- Mutuality: A mutual benefit is a shared benefit; a shared benefit will endure.
- Efficiency: We use resources to the full, waste nothing and do only what we can do best.
- Freedom: We need freedom to shape our future; we need profit to remain free.4
Good Management Practices and Mars’ Five Principles
Interestingly, in an article written January 9, 1951, entitled “AN ESSAY ON MANAGEMENT,” L. Ron Hubbard refers to several points that Mars has been applying. He states: “Goals and their proper definition are important because they are inherent in the definition of management itself. Management could be said to be the planning of means to attain goals and their assignation for execution to staff, and the proper coordination of activities within the group to attain maximal efficiency with minimal effort to attain determined goals. . . .
“Management concerns itself with the accomplishment of goals otherwise determined. In large companies the goals of the group are normally set forth by boards of directors. When this is done, the goals are assigned the nebulous word policy.”
The Mars company policy containing the Five Principles has everything to do with the company’s management and work culture. “The Five Principles are the key to our culture, and we strive to live by them each and every day. They serve as a compass to help guide our business decisions and unite us across geographies, languages, cultures and generations. The result is stronger relationships with everyone—our consumers, customers, business partners, communities and each other.”
Company History, Origins in 1911
How did this 100-plus-year-old company become so forward thinking? Mars began in 1911 as the Mar-O-Bar Co., a snack-food business founded by Frank C. Mars of Tacoma, Washington, who made a variety of butter-cream candy in his home. Frank had been born in 1883 in Minnesota, where as a young boy he contracted polio, preventing him from walking to school. His mother taught him his lessons in their kitchen, while also teaching him how to hand-dip chocolate.
Quality and value were the foundations of his first candy factory, which employed 125 people. In 1920 Frank Mars relocated to larger quarters in Minneapolis, where Snickers (without the chocolate coating) and Milky Way bars were created. The company posted a loss of $6,000 in 1922, but by 1924 sales exceeded $700,000. Mars changed his company’s name to Mars Candies in 1926. With the company’s rapid growth, Mars sought larger quarters and built a new plant in suburban Chicago in 1928. Sales actually quadrupled during the lean years of the Depression, and new products were introduced, including the Mars Almond Bar, Snickers Bar (now with a chocolate covering) and 3 Musketeers.
Frank Mars hired his son, Forrest E. Mars, to work in the candy operation after his graduation from Yale, but the two reportedly had a stormy relationship. In the early 1930s, Frank, giving Forrest some money and the foreign rights to manufacture Milky Way, ordered his son to start his own business abroad. Moving to England, Forrest established a confectionery and a canned pet-food company, which met with great success.
In 1940 Forrest Mars returned to the United States and founded M&M Limited in Newark, New Jersey, to manufacture chocolate candies in a sugar shell. At that time, stores reduced their stock of chocolate in the summer because of the lack of air conditioning, and Forrest hoped to capitalize on the unique construction of M&M’s to sell the candy year-round. The name of the candy was derived from the initials of Mars and an associate, Bruce Murrie. M&M’s Peanut Chocolate Candies were introduced in 1954, the same year the famous slogan “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth—not in your hand” was first used.
Frank Mars’ business was also experiencing great success. In 1943 Mars ventured into the main-meal business, which embraced a wide selection of rice products, including whole grain, savory, boil-in-bag, fast cook, instant and frozen rice as well as other products. Uncle Ben’s rice utilized a rice processing technology called parboiling, which was developed in England and was first used in the United States by a Texas food broker with whom Forrest E. Mars Sr. formed a partnership. Several months after their first production facility was completed, they began selling rice to the U.S. Army, which they continued to supply throughout World War II.
After the war, the company introduced converted rice to the American public, and by 1952 it sold the country’s number one brand of rice. Around this time, the company adopted the name Uncle Ben for a locally famous rice grower known for producing high-quality rice crops. Uncle Ben’s eventually became the leading brand of rice worldwide, sold in more than 100 countries, with manufacturing facilities in the United States, Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Other popular brands included Country Inn rice, Dolmio spaghetti sauces and pasta, and oriental dishes named Suzi Wan, primarily sold in Europe and Australia.5
United in 1967
Because of increased production, Mars constructed a new plant in Hackettstown, New Jersey, in 1958. In the early 1960s, facilities were extended to Europe with a factory at Veghel in the Netherlands. In 1967 Forrest merged his business with the Mars Company owned by his father and took over operation of the new company.
He established a radically egalitarian system at the company in which workers were called Associates and everyone—from the president down—punched a time clock. Offices were eliminated and desks were arranged in a wagon-wheel fashion, with the higher-ranking executives in the center, to facilitate communication between individuals and functional areas. Notoriously demanding, Forrest rewarded his Associates with salaries that were substantially higher than those in other comparably sized companies. He valued his employees and considered them associates, rewarding them well for their work and innovations.6
In “An Essay on Management,” L. Ron Hubbard states, “A management can instantly improve the tone of any organization and thus its efficiency by hooking up and keeping wide open all communication lines between all departments and amongst all persons of the group and communication lines between the goal maker and the group.”
This wagon-wheel layout of the office and desks was designed to facilitate open communication. Responsibility and freedom are part of the driving policy that endures in the Mars culture today.
Interestingly, Mr. Hubbard mentions their competitor Milton Hershey in this same article, in which he states, “Hershey, a brilliant manager with a brilliant managing staff, yet failed dismally as a manager because he neglected the primary wealth of his company—his people and their own pride and independence. His reign of a company ceased with his people—well-paid engineers and laborers, well housed, well clothed—shooting at him with remarkably live ammunition.”
But Mars valued its employees and still does today. While culture, joy and sense of purpose are some of the reasons Associates ranked Mars among the best places to work in Europe, one Associate added, “Working for Mars is far more than just a job—it’s about working with kind and supportive people. Mars challenges me to go above and beyond and rewards us with far more than just pay and benefits.”
The president of Mars Multisales (multi-category sales markets) in the European and African regions added, “Associates have always been at the heart of everything we do at Mars and have helped us to create a unique culture that has seen us regularly on Great Place to Work lists around the world.”7
Do you do everything you can to let employees know they matter to the company? Does management ensure that everyone is aware of company policy and communicates openly to achieve the goals of your business? Are you keeping wide open communication lines between all departments and among all persons of the group, as well as between the goal maker and the group?
Do these things and your company’s success will follow.
Here’s a quick timeline of some highlights of the Mars Company’s history:
1911: Frank C. Mars starts a candy factory in Tacoma, Washington.
1920: Mars relocates to Minneapolis; company begins selling Snickers and Milky Way bars.
1926: Business is renamed Mars Candies.
1928: A new plant in Chicago is built.
1940: After starting operations in Europe, son Forrest brings M & M’s to United States.
1943: Mars begins making parboiled (instant) rice for the U.S. Army.
1954: Peanut M&M’s debuts.
1958: Mars builds a new plant in New Jersey; facilities soon extend to the Netherlands.
1967: Frank and Forrest Mars merge their respective businesses.
1968: Mars, already a leading dog-food maker, buys and expands Kal Kan.
1969: Mars Electronics International begins developing high-tech vending machines.
1973: Forrest Mars retires; elder Mars children become co-presidents.
1986: Mars enters frozen-snack business with purchase of Dove International.
1988: Dove Europe established.
1991: Numerous new candy and pet-food brands are added.
1999: Founder Frank Mars dies.
2000: Cocoapro.com website celebrates the magic of chocolate.
2014: Mars in Veghel, Holland, opens fist anaerobic methane wastewater treatment on the European continent, which processes water up to 99% pure.
2015: Mars Global Food Safety Center opens in Huairou, China, a first of its kind facility for pre-competitive research, training and collaboration that aims to raise global food safety standards.
2016: New Moy wind farm in Scotland will power the equivalent of all Mars UK factories and offices, as Mars takes another step on the “Path to Zero” greenhouse gas emissions from operations.
2016: Mars, Incorporated, announces it will combine their chocolate and Wrigley segments to create the Mars Wrigley Confectionery.
2017: Mars launches Farmer Income Lab to tackle issue of smallholder farmer income.
2017: Mars unveils Sustainable in a Generation Plan and commits to invest $1 billion over the next few years to tackle urgent threats facing our business and the society we operate in – threats like climate change, poverty in our value chain and a scarcity of resources.
From: http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/mars-incorporated and the Mars Candies website.
- “Mars, Incorporated History.” FundingUniverse, n.d.
- “Best Multinational Workplaces in Europe.” GreatPlacetoWork.net. Great Place to Work Institute, 2019.
- Fortune Editors. “These Are 2018’s World’s Best Workplaces.” Fortune.com. Time, Inc., 15 Oct. 2018.
- “The Five Principles of Mars.” Mars.com. Mars, Incorporated, n.d.
- “Mars, Incorporated History.” FundingUniverse, n.d.
- “The History of Mars, Inc.” Mars, Incorporated, n.d.
- “Mars Is Named #2 Best Workplace in Europe for 2018.” Mars, Incorporated, 22 June 2018.