We cannot know what went through Forrest Mars' mind when he decided to manufacture his little "energy balls", as they were first named, in 1936. Temporarily settled in England and estranged from his American family, Forrest first gave Britain the Mars bar in 1932. But you have to wonder where anyone would get the idea of little balls of malted honeycomb coated in chocolate.
The Horlicks factory up the road from the Mars works in Slough offers a clue. No matter. They make 10 billion balls a year there now, in a secret process, and there are almost as many ways of consuming them. Like all special foods, there is a certain private ceremony attached to them.
At some point in our lives we decide how we like to eat them: munched whole; with the chocolate sucked off first, the honeycomb then chewed or melted; bitten in half; nibbling all the chocolate off first, leaving the "naked" Malteser. Best with tea or milk? How many of the 17 in a standard pack should be shared? Is a carton of them an acceptable alternative to a "proper" box of chocs? And how on earth do they make them? (It's a trade secret.) Big questions indeed for such a minor institution.
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