Sweet: Ferrero breaks ground on its first North American chocolate plant in Bloomington
The Ferrero candy plant in southwest Bloomington will soon get its chocolate next door, rather than from across the globe. Ferrero officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday on its first chocolate processing facility in North America.
Construction has already begun and is expected to be completed in early 2023.
Ferrero North America President and Chief Business Officer Todd Siwak said it's more efficient to make the chocolate in Bloomington instead of shipping it from Europe.
“By investing in the capability and technology and the talent to process that chocolate here in Bloomington, central in Illinois, provides for us real vertical integration of a critical component of our supply chain,” Siwak said.
The expansion is a $75 million project. The 70,000-square-foot facility will be added to Ferrero’s operations on Beich Road.
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said the new plant's potential goes far beyond the 50 jobs it will add to the local economy.
"Because of Ferrero’s reach throughout the world, many people and companies will get to know Bloomington and could consider investing here as well, so the ripple effect of their investment is beyond measure,” Mwilambwe said.
Ferrero is taking advantage of several tax incentives, including a sales tax break on building materials. McLean County and several other taxing bodies agreed to expand an enterprise zone to include the new facility.
Siwak said those incentives made the decision to expand in Bloomington easy.
“(The incentives) allow us to continue to invest in this facility to create high-paying skilled jobs, which is what we are doing,” Siwak said.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) runs the enterprise zone program to boost growth in economically depressed areas. DCEO acting director Sylvia Garcia said new training programs in manufacturing will help develop a workforce for these jobs. That includes the new manufacturing training academy at Heartland Community College.
“We are really focused on building these economic development opportunities and knowing there are workforce needs that come along with those,” Garcia said. “I think we are really excited about the jobs that are being created.”
Ferrero is based in Italy. it makes Butterfinger, Nutella, Crunch bars, Raisinets and other candy brands.
Halloween and pandemic sales
Candy sales have remained strong throughout the pandemic and that trend has even accelerated as the economy has reopened.
Ferrero spokesperson Hugh McMullen said sales of the company's chocolate candies over the last three months are 10% ahead of last year’s pace.
“Sales of treats have been steady throughout the pandemic as people look for some normalcy and joy, which continues as we approach Halloween,” McMullen said. He added Halloween chocolate sales are up sharply over last year. Trick-or-treating was greatly limited last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Siwak said Halloween typically accounts for 20% of Ferrero’s sales throughout the year.