In 1930, when sugar was an extra-special treat and candy was eaten only on special occasions, chocolate mogul Franklin Mars encased a peanut, caramel and nougat snack in a coating of milk chocolate and sold it under the name of Snickers.
At that time, Frank Mars had no way of knowing that this 271 calorie, full-sized bar packed a walloping 14 grams of fat and 29 grams of sugar and that one day its smaller, fun-size version would be designated one of the “worst” Halloween candy choices with 70 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 9 carbohydrates.
In spite of its high calorie count and excessive fat content, Snickers remains a beloved choice of millions. Parent company M&M/Mars boasts that Snickers is still the best-selling candy bar in the world over seventy-five years after it was first placed on store shelves. Worldwide sales of Snickers candy bars exceed $2-bilion each year.
According to Good Housekeeping (October 2008), Rainn Wilson of television’s The Office picked Snickers for her Halloween candy of choice: “The little mini Snickers (are) awesome!” she exclaimed. Renowned chef Paula Dean uses pieces of Snickers bars wrapped inside store-bought, refrigerated cookie dough to create her own simple and tasty cookie recipe.
Enjoying the wealth:
Frank Mars’ candy business thrived in the 1920s and 1930s. He and his second wife, Ethel, enjoyed their money and found great satisfaction in what they had. In addition to supervising the construction of a 100 x 200 foot log cabin and buying an airplane, they formed the $2-million Milky Way Stables after purchasing and combining several farms in Tennessee; they stocked it with prize-winning racehorses.
Naming a candy bar:
So, how did the Snickers candy bar get its name? The simple truth is that Frank Mars chose to name his 1930 release after one of his favorite horses.
After 51-year old Frank died in 1934, his wife continued to spend much of her time at the Milky Way Stables and continued to race their horses: “She made a name for herself on the horse-racing circuit, taking third place in the Kentucky Derby in 1935 and 1937, and winning the (Kentucky Derby) race in 1940 with her horse Gallahadion, which paid off at a handsome 35 to 1.”
Ethel named her favorite horses after candy bars. So connected were horses and the business, that on one occasion she sanctioned offering “the choice of a racehorse or $2,500 in a contest to name a new candy bar (the bar, named Two Bits, was pulled from the shelves because of lack of sales.” Other than this instance, Ethel chose to stay out of the company business.
Author Joel Glenn Brenner wrote that although “Snickers is still America’s best-selling candy bar, the brand has been consistently losing share since 1994.” Nine years later, we are in the midst of an economic crisis and people worldwide are more careful about how they spend their money. Add to that the fact that more people have been taking their health and fitness more seriously, and M&M/Mars may find itself having to rein in production of Snickers bars and all their other candy products.
Source: The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars, by Joel Glenn Brenner; Random House NY, 1999.