CRISIS IN CANDYLAND: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire by Jan Pottker

CRISIS IN CANDYLAND: Melting the Chocolate Shell of the Mars Family Empire

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This trashy, overstated assault on the proprietors of Mars Inc. (best known for M&Ms and other candies) could easily prove 1995's worst business book. With awesome self-assurance, albeit precious little flair, Pottker (coauthor, Dear Ann, Dear Abby, 1987) takes out after the secretive Mars clan, which built, owns, and operates an eponymous commercial domain with global reach and annual revenues of at least $12.5 billion. In addition to its perennially popular chocolate bars (Milky Way, Snickers, et al.), the firm--based in McLean, Va. (less than three miles from CIA headquarters, the author is at pains to point out)--makes and sells Kal Kan pet foods, Dove confections, and Uncle Ben's rice products. Relying on secondary sources, absent hard data and insights on corporate strategies, Pottker trivializes what by any standard is a consequential multinational enterprise and lards the narrative with frequently contradictory critiques of management's failure to make acquisitions, introduce dramatic new products, and otherwise measure up to her inch-deep understanding of what makes an effective corporate executive. Along the way she offers third-hand gossip on the foibles of the two third-generation brothers (Forrest Jr. and John) who are now running the show. Unfortunately for the author's purposes, the personal lives of the parsimonious, workaholic siblings are not such stuff as tabloid dreams are made on. Nor, despite constant assertions to the contrary (which are belied by the author's own findings), do their performances as corporate executives suffer by comparison with industry counterparts. In the US, Mars Inc. trails only Hershey (by a slim margin) in market share, meanwhile effectively preempting the competition in post-Soviet Russia and other potentially lucrative outlets in the erstwhile Soviet bloc. An uninformed and uninformative take on a pillar of the sweet-tooth trade.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: National Press