We all know what candy is don’t we? Well, for completion’s sake, the actual definition is that candy is a confectionery treat of which sugar is the prime ingredient. This means that, as well as the brightly colored sugary sweets we all think of as candy, other sweet products such as chocolate, chewing gum, licorice, and marshmallows are found in the candy category.
Candy dates back as far as Ancient China and the Roman Empire where, before sugar was available, they used to coat fruits in honey, therefore ‘candying’ them. The word ‘candy’ finally appeared in the English language by the 1200s. In the late 1700s, candy appeared in America after being shipped over by the English and the French, during these times candy was only available for the very wealthy individuals who could afford sugar. It wasn't until the 1830s when it became available to the poorer working class as well, after advances in technology allowed the price of refined sugar to be dropped significantly.
Another well known and well documented fact is that candy isn't good for us. In fact, it poses many health risks and provides almost no nutritional value to our diet. These health risks include cavities, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Despite these well reported health risks, there is a massive market for candy simply due to the popularity of the casually eaten sweet treat. Global sales for candy in 2010 were about $57 billion USD, and it’s no large surprise that the United States accounted for almost half of these sales ($23 billion USD).
This large market means that there is definitely room for ingenious business minds to make a large shedload of money in the candy industry by creating massively popular products that can be enjoyed around the globe. That is most certainly what these billionaires have done, here are the world’s top billionaire candy kings.
5 William Wrigley, Jr - $2.5 Billion USD
William Wrigley Junior, or Bill Wrigley as he’s more conveniently known, is the great grandson of another William Wrigley Junior, who launched the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company back in 1891. You might know this now as the largest chewing gum provider in the world, Wrigley’s.
The company was originally launched to sell soap and baking powder, but as a sideline William Wrigley, Jr started selling chewing gum. Soon after, the gum became the company’s best selling product and William decided to focus on that. Now, the company sells their products in more than 180 countries (and is also the only US enterprise operating in North Korea) and generates over $5 billion USD in revenue every year.
When Bill Wrigley took over operations of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company as CEO in 1999 he began focusing on sugar free gum and publicizing the health benefits of their products, in addition to purchasing multiple other candy companies. Despite his success, and the company being in the family for nearly 120 years, in 2008 Bill Wrigley agreed to sell Wrigley’s Chewing Gum (the company, not just a pack of gum) to Mars Candy for $23 billion USD after stepping down as chief executive officer in 2006. However, he is still the chairman of his family’s legendary company.
4 Axel Oberwelland - $3.9 Billion USD
Axel Oberwelland is a name you probably don’t recognize. However, the German born businessman is the current chief executive officer of the August Storck Group, a candy company with its headquarters in Berlin. Okay, so you might not recognize that name either, but the Storck Group is responsible for the production of multiple well known European candy brands, such as Werther’s Original, Riesen, and Toffiffee.
Axel Oberwelland inherited his $3.9 billion USD net worth when his father died in 2005, meaning Axel inherited Storck GmbH and, subsequently, the company’s value. Axel is the fourth generation of Oberwellands to run the Storck Group, and is responsible for expanding their operations to Eastern Europe in recent years. This expansion led to the growth of the Storck Group’s revenues of almost 6% in 2012. Apart from the company’s expansion into untapped markets, Axel Oberwelland has managed to bring in over half of their estimated $1.6 billion USD from outside their home country, Germany. The impressive growth of the company under the management of Axel proves very promising for the future of these European candy giants.
Keeping with their namesake, back in 1992 the Storck Group established a philanthropic foundation called the Storck Foundation, which focuses on protecting the endangered storks in Germany.
3 Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti - $7.36 Billion USD
Here are another two names that you may not have heard. Augusto and Giorgio Perfetti hail from Italy but currently live in Switzerland, trying to stay out of the way of the media. The brothers gained their enormous $7.4 billion USD fortune after inheriting their father’s company; Perfetti Van Melle. Whilst the brothers own Perfetti Van Melle, the third largest candy manufacturer in the world, they don’t currently have any involvement with running the company.
Perfetti Van Melle was formed by Augusto and Giorgio’s father and uncle, Ambrosio and Edigio Perfetti, in 1946 near Milan. They started out selling chewing gum in Italy after seeing its potential and popularity with American soldiers during World War II (think the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company). They made an absolute fortune. However, they soon diversified into other confectionery products and, at the start of the millennium, began purchasing other candy companies. These purchased companies include Van Melle (from the Netherlands) and Chupa Chups (from Spain).
This diverse range of products means that Perfetti Van Melle, who started out selling chewing gum, currently only take 40% of their annual $3.4 billion USD revenue from gum, with the rest coming from other candies. These candies include Chupa Chups, Mentos, Fruittella, and Smint, amongst many others.
2 Michele Ferrero & Family - $26.7 Billion USD
Michele Ferrero is the wealthiest sole person on this list, and the first of our candy kings to appear in Forbes’ Top 100 Richest People in the World list, at number 22. Not only this, but he is also Italy’s richest person, ahead of Silvio Berlusconi. As you may have guessed, Michele Ferrero is the owner of the chocolate giant Ferrero SpA, which was founded by Michele’s father, Pietro Ferrero. Michele Ferrero is retired now, at the age of 89, and his son Giovanni Ferrero now runs the company alone, after his brother tragically died in 2011.
Ferrero SpA was founded in Italy in 1946, and when Michele Ferrero took over business operations the company began to see massive success. Whilst the name suggests that they built their company on the success of the luxury chocolate Ferrero Rocher, their product line up includes multiple worldwide favorites. To name but a few, they are the producers of Nutella, Kinder Chocolate, Kinder Eggs, and Tic Tacs. Ferrero SpA, which generates over $10 billion USD in revenue every year, is also extremely secretive. So secretive that they refuse to allow the media on their premises and in their history they have never held a press conference. You can’t really blame them can you? When you have a company raking in $10 billion USD in sales a year you wouldn't want people stealing your recipes would you?
1 The Mars Siblings - $59.1 Billion USD (combined)
The Mars siblings are a trio of brothers and sisters who co-own the world’s largest confectionery company. Can you guess what it is? Yep, Mars. The siblings, consisting of Forrest Mars Jr, Jacqueline Mars, and John Mars, each own an equal share in the company and have a net worth of $19.7 billion USD each, which puts them at joint 36th of the world’s richest people. Although all of them are on the board of directors, they currently play no part in running the company. As such their lives are free to do as they please, which includes a number of philanthropic ventures.
The siblings’ grandfather, Frank Mars, launched his first candy company in 1911, which failed. In 1920 he had launched another company, which could be seen as the earliest form of the Mars, Inc that we know today. From then on Frank, aided by his son Forrest Mars, Sr, went from strength to strength, launching the Mars Bar in 1932 shortly after moving the company onto the international scene
Mars, Inc is the largest confectionery company on the planet, with annual sales in excess of $30 billion USD. This doesn't all come from candy though, they also own Uncle Ben’s Rice and multiple pet food brands including Pedigree and Whiskas. Let’s hope they don’t get the recipes mixed up. Their revenue is no surprise considering that M&Ms, made by Mars, are the most popular candy in the world, selling $1.8 billion USD worth every year. Then you add in the rest of their global products like Mars Bar, Snickers, Milky Way, and Maltesers, not to mention all the drinks they produce.