According to Statista, almost half the people in the UK admit to eating sweets or chocolate more than once a week, and nearly a quarter eat them every single day.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that British people love sweets and chocolate and, in fact, we consume the most sugar of anywhere in Europe, according to The Guardian.
It’s not just that, though, we’re also obsessed with the history of sweets. Just recently Richard Osman from Pointless on The BBC tweeted out a Twitter thread about the history of some of the UK’s favourite crisps and chocolate, racking up a grand total of 50,000 likes and thousands of retweets.
Strangely, though, we don’t seem to know much about the pioneers who made their fortune in America by creating some of the US’s most iconic brands, so this week we’re going to delve into the history of the richest sweet makers in America.
How Mars made their fortune
In the history of sweets there probably wasn’t anybody more important to today’s chocolate and sweet market than Frank Mars (an incredibly cool name I might add). Founder of the frighteningly less cool name of Mars Wrigley Confectionery, div. of Mars Inc, Frank was a true pioneer.
Born in 1882 in Minnesota, Frank was apparently selling candy and chocolate by the time he was 19. His mother taught him how to hand dip candy and chocolates, and this was what gave him the taste for the candy business.
In Tacoma, Washington, Frank and his second wife Ethel. V Mars (Again, what a name) started the Mars factory in 1911. The factory eventually failed and Frank was forced to head back to Minnesota where the earliest version of the current Mars company existed, but was known then as the Mars-O-Bar Co.
Mars’ first hit was the Milky Way bar, which was created by his son Forrest Mars. Snr, after he’d tried a popular type of milshake and was inspired to try and combine milkshakes with candy bars. The Snickers bar was launched in 1930 and became an immediate hit, and Forrest Mars opened his first UK factory in 1932 and released the now iconic Mars bar.
The Mars family still owns the entire Mars business to this day, and perhaps the most astonishing thing about it is that the Mars conglomerate actually runs and owns a life sciences company called Symbioscience in the US, which is dedicated to the research and development of healthier alternatives to sugar and other ingredients.
How Hershey’s made their fortune
Created by the now famous Milton. S Hershey, The Hershey Company has come to be one of the biggest confectioners in the world currently one of the biggest companies in America.
Milton. S Hershey actually started his journey as an apprentice confectioner all the way back in 1873 before founding his own candy shop in Philadelphia which was open for just 6 years before failing, much like his contemporary Frank Mars.
Milton did another apprenticeship, learning to make caramel, before having another crack in the candy business, opening up in Pennsylvania in 1886 as the Lancaster Caramel company. After pioneering the use of fresh milk in caramel, Hershey eventually sold his second business for $1,000,000. (About $30 million in today’s money)
The Hershey Bar, probably their most famous, was Milton’s first big hit and was originally created in 1900 after he built his own milk-processing plant to refine his method of chocolate manufacturing, which was eventually patented as the ‘Hershey method’.
Milton led a life as a crazy chocolate millionaire until his death in October 1945, just after the end of World War 2, at the ripe old age of 88 and is still considered a chocolate pioneer.