There’s no mistaking that chocolate-covered combination of caramel and nougat. Developed nearly 100 years ago in Mars company founder Frank Mars’s kitchen, the Milky Way bar has since gone on to candy industry glory, with more than $100 million in yearly sales. Here are a few facts worth biting into.
- IT ISN’T NAMED AFTER THE GALAXY. The Milky Way bar is actually named after malted milk, a popular drink around the time it was first released, in 1923. Started as an infant formula in the late 1800s, malted milk was prized for its taste and reputed health qualities, and became a key ingredient in the malted milkshake, or “malt.” Eager to capitalize on its popularity, Milky Way’s early ads claimed the candy bar had “more malted milk content than a soda fountain double malted milk!”
- THERE’S A FATHER-SON FEUD AT THE CENTER OF IT.
The Mars company claims founder Frank Mars developed the Milky Way bar along with his son, Forrest. But the truth isn’t quite so harmonious. Forrest grew up with his grandparents after his parents divorced in 1910, when Forrest was just 6 years old. Father and son didn’t see each other again for 20 years—oddly enough, when Frank had to bail Forrest out of a Chicago jail. The two worked together for a few years, until a falling out sent Forrest abroad to England, where he made his own name in the confectionery business, and eventually returned to the States to take over the Mars company. Throughout his life, Forrest would claim that even though his father had made the first Milky Way bar, it was his original idea.
- In the 1920’s it came in two flavors chocolate and vanilla.
- It was the first mass produced chocolate bar with a filling.
- Outside of North America the Milky Way is a completely different kind of candy bar. In Europe, the Milky Way bar is smaller and contains only nougat filling, making it more like a 3 Musketeers bar. Head to Australia, and you’ll find Milky Way in flavors like bananas and berries and cream. The Mars bar, created in England by Forrest Mars (his father gave him the foreign rights to Milky Way), is closer to the American Milky Way, and is sold in Europe, Canada and Australia. A U.S. version of the Mars bar appeared on shelves until 2002, when the company replaced it with Snickers Almond
- BUSTER KEATON APPEARED IN A TELEVISION AD. The renowned silent film star played a billboard worker in this ad from 1961. Although not as spry as he once was—Keaton was well into his sixties at the time—he’s still able to pull off a convincing fall near the end of the clip.