Mars is a privately-owned company with turnover of $18bn and operating in over 65 countries.  While best known for its confectionery products it also has substantial interests in other food and drink products, the petfood industry (Whiskas and Pedigree), and electronics. ] Mars Inc. owns Masterfoods USA which makes Seeds of Change (organic frozen meals) and Uncle Ben's. 
The Mars family (including siblings and retired company CEO Forrest Mars, Jr., chairman John Franklyn Mars, and Vice President Jacqueline Badger Mars) owns the highly secretive firm, making the family one of the richest in the U.S.  Forbes lists Forrest, John, and Jacqueline Mars as each having US$10.5 billion, making them tied for the 58th spot on the list of the world's richest billionaires. 
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Mars has been a corporate funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They were an exhibitor at ALEC's 2011 conference.  The company sent an email to Color of Change on April 12th, 2012 stating that it had ended its membership with ALEC. Please see Corporations that Have Cut Ties to ALEC for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Promoting Chocolate as A Health Food
Mars, which makes Snickers bars, M&Ms and Dove chocolates, used to spend $1 million per year subsidizing a newsletter which claimed that eating chocolate could prevent cavities. Now it is funding research that says chocolate is good for your heart. According to PR Week, the company has hired the Weber Shandwick PR firm to help promote its new CocoaVia brand, with the slogan, "Be Good to Your Heart Everyday." The New York Times reports that Mars is even placing its new CocoaVia bars in the health food aisles, near nutrition bars rather than candy, in retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores and Target. Noting that the new chocolate bars are still high in fat and calories, independent nutritionists remain skeptical, "saying that the effort seems less of a breakthrough than a sly way to scare up chocolate sales."
Ad boycott against Air America Radio
Mars' Masterfoods USA refused to advertise on the progressive Air America Radio. In October 2006, around 90 companies, including Masterfoods, told ABC Radio Networks that they did not want their ads to play on radio stations that carried Air America Radio.   
According to the Lobbyist.info database, Mars retains the firms Andrews Associates and Patton Boggs as outside counsel. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Mars has spent $9,110,000 on lobbying from 1998 to 2004, through the Patton Boggs, Policy & Taxation Group, Taggart & Associates and DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary firms. 
As the Holmes Report detailed, the rbb account was to help M&M's "go Hispanic": 
- After 60 years of manufacturing and distributing the chocolate that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, M&M/Mars made the decision to target the ever-growing U.S. Hispanic market for the first time. To do this, the company created a uniquely Hispanic M&Ms candy and retained rbb Public Relations to launch a branding campaign for the all-new product.
- The flavor? M&Ms Dulce de Leche-Caramel Chocolate Candies - a swirl of rich chocolate and creamy dulce de leche caramel (a staple Hispanic dessert) perfectly blended in a traditional M&Ms Candy Shell. In concert with “M&M,” rbb decided to target the five cities that boast the highest concentrations of Hispanics in the U.S. based on percentage of total population – Los Angeles, McAllen/Brownsville, Miami, San Antonio and San Diego.
- John Franklyn Mars, Chairman
- Paul S. Michaels, President
- R. E. Barnes, Vice President, Treasurer, and Chief Financial Officer
6885 Elm St.
McLean, VA 22101
Related SourceWatch articles
- Profile, Hoovers, accessed July 2007.
- Billionaires, Forbes, accessed October 2007.
- American Legislative Exchange Council, "Solutions for the States," 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011
- Color of Change, ColorOfChange Applauds Mars Inc.'s Decision to End its Membership in ALEC, organizational press release April 12th, 2012.
- Marc Fisher, "Air America, in the Throes of Victory?", The Washington Post, December 10, 2006.
- "Air America on Ad Blacklist?", FAIR, October 31, 2006.
- "Air America Blackout", FAIR.org/ABC memo, October 25, 2006.
- Key People, Hoovers, accessed July 2007.
- Jon Gertner, "Eat Chocolate, Live Longer?", New York Times, October 10, 2004.
- Alexei Barrioneuvo, "An Apple a Day for Health? Mars Recommends Two Bars of Chocolate", New York Times, October 31, 2005.
- Edgar Sandoval, "Mars taps WS to promote brand's health benefits", PR Week, November 7, 2005. (Sub req'd).