The Emperors of Chocolate

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars is a delightful account of how candy came to be sold at every newsstand, checkout line, and convenience store in America. Focussing on the intense rivalry between Hershey and Mars, the book explores a side to the confection industry that is far more bitter than the companies’ sweet-sounding advertisements would suggest.

Mars is entirely a family-run corporation. Founded by Frank Mars and developed into an international business by his son, Forrest, Sr., the company grew because of its intense competition and despite the almost fanatical secrecy of its upper management. In accord with management principles created by Forrest, Sr., and advanced by his children, John, Forrest, Jr., and Jacquelyn, Mars Inc. represents the culmination of the horizontal management style: all employees are on a first-name basis; there are no private offices, personal secretaries, or individual privileges. All employees, from the CEO downward, fly coach and receive paychecks tied to the company’s overall performance.

Reflecting the philosophy of its founder, Milton Hershey, Hershey Foods represents an entirely different sort of organization. Milton Hershey had a taste for luxury early in his life and devoted his wealth to world tours and a splendid mansion. As he grew older, however, Hershey became increasingly philanthropic, especially after the death of his wife. He created the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, to be a utopia with private homes for all residents, electricity, indoor plumbing, and free education through the community college level. He created an orphanage that, even today, holds a majority share in Hershey Foods. When he died, Hershey was virtually penniless, having turned nearly all of his assets over to the community he built.