Chocolate, of course, has been around for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the later part of the 19th-century that candy confectioners started putting things like marshmallows, peanuts, and caramel into the chocolate and selling it to the public as candy bars (via Forbes).
One of the earliest candy bar sensations that is still going incredibly strong today is Snickers, with Mars pumping out 15 million of them every day (via NBC News). The chocolate bar with a peanut, caramel, and nougat filling has been satisfying the hunger of candy-lovers for 90 years. Whether it’s enjoyed in the fun-size version by kids at Halloween or claiming a Guinness World Record for the largest candy bar, there’s no denying that Snickers is one of the world’s most popular candy bars.
With such a long legacy, the candy bar has seen its share of highs and lows and come under fire more than once for its high-calorie content. From its early beginnings to most-recent milestones, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about this American candy bar giant.
The Snickers candy bar is named after a horse
The Snickers candy bar didn’t come into existence until 1930 and by that time its creators, Frank and Ethel Mars were already incredibly successful. Frank Mars had started out quite poor to the point that his wife left him because his candy business was going nowhere (via Made in Chicago Museum). Frank Mars did eventually hit it big though with another popular candy bar in 1922 — the Milky Way.
So what does any of this have to do with Snickers? Well, the Milky Way was so successful that it made Frank and his second wife (also named Ethel, by the way) bona fide candy moguls. With all the money rolling in, Frank took up some pretty pricey hobbies and one of them was horse breeding. The guy didn’t just buy a couple of horses to ride on weekends either. No, Frank and Ethel went big and purchased a 3,000-acre farm called Milky Way Farms that employed 100 people in Tennessee.
One of Ethel’s favorite horses was a prized racehorse that died shortly before Frank Mars’ new version of Milky Way with the addition of peanuts went into production (via Rewind & Capture). In honor of the horse named Snickers, the couple decided to name the new candy bar as a tribute.
It wasn’t even called Snickers in the UK
Americans may have been eating Snickers since 1930, but folks in the U.K. didn’t start eating Snickers bars until 1990. This is because, for years, the candy bar wasn’t called Snickers but was known instead as a Marathon bar.
As for the primary reason that Mars opted to call it a "Marathon" bar rather than Snickers? Well, they were essentially worried that people would think it was a joke since Snickers rhymes with "knickers," the British slang for women’s underwear. In 1990, they decided to use one name for the candy bar all around the world. Mars phased the Snickers name in with the packaging reading both Marathon and Snickers, so as not to confuse customers, until Marathon was eventually dropped altogether.
In a tribute to the candy bar’s past, Mars reissued a throwback run of Marathon bars in 2019 for a limited nine-week run (via Runner’s World). The candy bar was exactly the same — only the wrapper was different.
Mars begins making Snickers for Halloween months in advance
Snickers may not be the most popular or best-selling Halloween candy — that distinguished title goes to Reese’s — but it is a ridiculously hot item. The candy bar rakes in millions in sales every October and in order to make sure there’s enough peanut and chocolate goodness to go around, Mars has to start making them months in advance.
According to Mars Wrigley’s chief operating officer, Vic Mehren, Halloween is the Super Bowl for Snickers. "We’re thinking about Halloween well before [it] happens, so it is a constant all year long preoccupation for us, for sure," Mehren told Today.
Mehren said that the Mars factory in Oak Park, Illinois starts making Snickers and other candy that will be sold at Halloween the spring before trick or treaters take to the streets. The factory pumps out Snickers "throughout the entire summer" in order to have everything shipped out and on store shelves by September.
While Mehren didn’t drop any specific numbers as to how many Snickers bars are sold during the Halloween season, more than 400 million are sold during the course of a year (via Eat This Not That!).
Snickers tried to change the date of Halloween
Being that Halloween is such a monumental time for Snickers, the candy bar does have some weight it can throw around regarding the holiday.
Halloween, of course, falls on October 31 and many years it falls on days of the week that aren’t exactly party-friendly. October 31 was on a Thursday in 2019, for example. Not the worst day, but not as good as Saturday either. In 2019, Snickers joined a movement to officially make Halloween the last Saturday in October (via Fox News).
Snickers didn’t merely say that they thought it was a good idea to change the date of Halloween, but actually gave an incentive to do so. "A Thursday Halloween? Not Satisfying," read a tweet from Snickers. "Halloween on the last Saturday of October? Satisfying. If the Fed Govt makes it official, we’ll offer 1 million free SNICKERS to America."
All of a sudden the push to move Halloween didn’t sound so terrible anymore. "Signed!! Totally down for this with 3 school-aged kids," said one person. Others, though, weren’t so cool with the idea and directed Snickers to "stay in their candy lane" and told the brand "I thought my love of Snickers was sacred, but we just broke up over this."
Obviously, Halloween is still on track for October 31 this year. Nice try, Snickers.
Nutritionists weren’t happy about Snickers being an Olympic sponsor
The Snickers candy bar — along with M&Ms — was designated as the official snack food of the 1984 games and nutritionists were less than pleased (via UPI). "The present labeling is misleading in that it leads consumers to believe that these candies are endorsed by the Olympic Games as a nutritious snack food choice," dietitian Edward C. Goodstein said at the time.
Mars secured its "official snack" endorsement of Snickers by paying the Olympics $4 million dollars along with free candy for all of the competing athletes.
Goodstein and other nutritionists were concerned the promotion would lead "little kids [to] figure that if they eat Snickers or M&Ms they will become athletes." It was a pretty fair argument too, especially when Snickers had athletes like alpine skier Karl Anderson promoting it in commercials and saying that eating a Snickers "allows me to concentrate on downhill."
Snickers didn’t back down and had their own candy nutritionist defend the sponsorship. "Athletes do have greater demand for energy and candy is one way to get it," Dr. Daniel Rosenfield said.
In case you’re curious, Anderson didn’t need Snickers to "concentrate on downhill" at the ’84 games because he didn’t even compete (via News Center Maine).
Snickers are a little smaller than they used to be
Despite what the Snickers of the 1984 Olympics would have you think, Snickers is by no means a health food. Sure, this is probably a "duh" moment for most folks, but Mars has been blasted by nutritionists for years and that criticism reached a boiling point in 2012.
Spurred by public health movements like Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, Mars decided that it would work to help combat the childhood obesity epidemic rather than contribute to it (via Reason). This meant reducing the size of the standard 280-calorie Snickers bar by 12 percent.
Yes, Mars did roll out the standard public relations response of "Mars chocolate products should be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle," but they did somewhat try to make a positive change (via CNN Money).
In addition to shrinking the regular Snickers, Mars said they’d be swapping the hefty king-size version for a "2toGo" version that contained two Snickers bars of 220-calories each in a resealable package. Whether or not customers actually save the second bar for later though, is up to their own willpower.
A viral internet rumor falsely claimed Snickers cause cancer
The internet has certainly seen its fair share of strange rumors and one of the weirdest that thankfully turned out to be bogus happened just a few years ago.
Back in 2016, Mars voluntarily recalled a ton of its chocolate from 55 countries because a bit of plastic was found in a Snickers bar (via The Guardian). That should have been the end of it, but then a video clip posted by Euronews showed heaps of Snickers being tossed into a firey pit because of the recall. There was no mention of cancer in the video clip, but regardless, a group called "foodielock.com" began circulating the video claiming the Snickers destruction was because it caused cancer (via Buzzfeed).
Pretty soon, the post had been shared some 53,000 times where it was picked up by more dubious fake news sites. Long story short, eating a bunch of Snickers might cause your waistline to expand, but the scientific community hasn’t blacklisted Snickers as a cancer-causing agent.
Snickers probably helped save a man’s life
As Colorado outdoorsman Christian George would later admit in 1998, "Mother Nature up in these mountains is not something to play with." George was on a snowmobiling trip when he got separated from his group and buried in an avalanche (via Steamboat Pilot & Today).
The only things he had in his pockets at the time were two cigarette lighters and America’s favorite candy bar — Snickers. "When I stopped for gas in the morning, I picked up a little pint of orange juice and a king-size Snickers bar. And, unfortunately, I left the pint of orange juice in my car," George told CBS.
Half-frozen, George was able to free himself from what could have been a snowy grave and over the course of four days, crawled through the waist-deep snow until he was spotted by a helicopter.
In order to keep his strength up, George was careful to ration his Snickers bar a bite at a time. This was back when a king-size Snickers had 510 calories and while he did lose 23 pounds during his harrowing ordeal, he would have been worse off, if not dead, if he didn’t’ have that Snickers.
Had George not been busted for illegally growing marijuana a week later, who knows, he maybe could have been a Snickers spokesperson.
Snickers’ hangry celebrity ads have been a massive success
Snickers early TV commercials were animated ads geared at kids, but these days they’re better-known for ads with hangry celebrity icons like Joe Pesci and Betty White. The Snickers "you’re not you when you’re hungry" commercials helped reverse a downward trajectory that the brand was facing prior to launching the ad strategy (via Campaign).
The first of the ads featured Abe Vigoda and Betty White in a touch football game that aired in 2010 during the Super Bowl. It didn’t just do well, but was the best-performing commercial of the game that year (via PR Newswire). That initial ad generated an incredible 400 million in unpaid media impressions worth around $28.6 million.
More Snickers commercials obviously followed with everyone from Robin Williams to Aretha Franklin. Even fictional monsters the Gremlins found their way into the commercials. Popular commercials with celebrity cameos are pretty good for business and Snickers saw their sales increase by nearly 16 percent. As Campaign pointed out, that’s not too shabby for a brand that was 80-years-old at the time.
You can now get a Snickers with peanut butter instead of peanuts
One of the more recent Snickers flavors removed the peanuts altogether and instead swapped in creamy peanut butter. "We listened to our consumers’ desires for new tastes like almond butter and paired it with an innovation on texture," brand director Josh Olken said (via Insider). Olken went on to say that it allowed for a "Snickers satisfaction in both crunchy and smooth."
Unlike the regular Snickers candy bar, the peanut butter version actually came in small square sizes. As for how good a candy is that clearly wanted to steal some of Reese’s Cups thunder, reviews were a bit lukewarm. The Spruce Eats tasted the version that came with both peanut butter and peanuts, and said the combination of peanut butter and nougat made the taste of the caramel virtually invisible and that it had a gritty texture. Gritty is never a positive way of describing a chocolate candy bar.
The candy bars also came in almond and maple butter versions which, again, got somewhat of a mixed reception. While Taste of Home’s reviewer really liked the peanut butter and almond butter versions, the maple butter was a bit too sweet for their taste.
Mars briefly tried a caffeinated Snickers bar
The folks at Mars are always experimenting with ways to add a new twist to Snickers. Sometimes it’s simply adding more of what’s already inside — caramel and peanuts — other times it’s a bit more bizarre.
The strangest Snickers to date, though, has to be the candy bar’s attempt to transform itself into a caffeinated energy bar. Perhaps the Snickers that was fueling athletes at the ’84 Olympic games just wasn’t cutting it anymore.
In 2008, Snickers launched Snickers Charged, a candy bar that in addition to its usual peanuts also included taurine and 60 milligrams of caffeine. "[It] offers consumers a bar of substance and a delicious and satisfying way to tackle the afternoon hours when one needs to repower," Mars Vice President Michele Kessler told NY Daily News.
Even though the candy bar contained slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee, dieticians like Tina Fuchs were concerned more about the 250 calories of sugar people would be consuming "every time they need an energy boost."
Snickers Charged wasn’t the first time a candy bar tried to take on Red Bull and other energy drinks. Butterfinger tried it a year later. According to Deseret News, Snickers Charged was only meant to be a limited-time candy unless it really took off… which it didn’t.
A limited run of Snickers had green filling
As Snickers has proven with their caffeinated candy bar, they’re not against thinking outside the box and getting a bit weird with their candy creations. One of the strangest has to be the time they decided to change the color of nougat inside their candy bar to green.
Mars wanted to get people hyped about the third installment of the Shrek film franchise in 2007, so they created a limited run of Snickers that were the same color on the inside as the green ogre (via Candy Blog). The wrapper’s message promised Snickers fans that the candy bar still delivered on the "same Snickers taste" only now "with green Shrek filling." That almost makes it sound like Mars put poor Shrek in the candy bars.
While fans of Shrek might have been on board with green Snickers, the candy bar did bring out some critics who took issue with Shrek’s junk food associations. An editorial piece in The New York Times, for example, said Shrek was sending a "mixed message" to kids by both appearing in public service announcements to encourage kids to exercise and promoting junk food like Snickers and Twinkies.
The largest Snickers bar weighed two tons
Nothing makes for good brand marketing like securing a place in the book of Guinness World Records, and Snickers kicked off 2020 by doing just that. Mars set out to create a candy bar that would make every other candy bar out there look like a puny fun-size version by making one that weighed in at over two tons (via Candy Industry).
Just like a regular Snickers bar, this giant version still had peanuts, caramel, and chocolate — just a lot more of it. The candy bar was made with 3,500 pounds of milk chocolate and 1,200 pounds of peanuts, caramel, and nougat to help celebrate two different anniversaries for Snickers.
"We’re not only celebrating the 90th anniversary of the brand, but the Super Bowl will also mark ten years since the iconic ‘Game’ spot launched the award-winning ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ campaign," Snickers’ director of sales, Josh Olken said. "What better time than the Super Bowl to satisfy something on the biggest scale yet?"
The massive size of the giant Snickers was the equivalent of 41,000 regular Snickers bars and would be consumed by the 600 Mars Wrigley workers in Waco, Texas who helped make it… along with probably just about everyone else in Waco.
Unfortunately for Snickers, they didn’t hold the record long. Reese’s Take 5 stole the record just a couple weeks later.