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Ferraro-owned North Chicago Jelly Belly plant to close, affecting dozens of workers

Stacks of color-coded containers filled with various shades of candy are arranged neatly in rows inside a large warehouse. An American flag hangs from the ceiling, and industrial equipment and conveyor belts are present in the background.
Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons
Most Jelly Belly production takes place at this plant in Fairfield, California, where the company is headquartered. Chicago-based Ferrara, which bought Jelly Belly last year, has opted to discontinue manufacturing at its North Chicago plant.

Chicago-based candy company Ferrara has announced plans to close its North Chicago Jelly Belly plant, impacting 66 workers.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, operations will move from Belly’s Lake County facility around Oct. 11. Workers will have the opportunity to move to another of Ferrara’s five Chicagoland plants.

Ferrara produces some of the world’s most recognizable tart and fruity candies, including Lemonheads, Nerds, Laffy Taffy and Sweet Tarts. The company purchased Jelly Belly, a family company founded in Illinois in 1869, for an undisclosed amount in October 2023.

A news release states Ferrara brought in $1.8 billion in net sales during the 2023 fiscal year, 15% higher than the previous year. The same release estimated Jelly Belly and another acquisition, Brazilian confectioner Dori Alimentos, garnered $500 million in additional sales.

Though they operate independently, Ferrara is owned by Italian parent company Ferrero that cut the ribbon on its only North American chocolate factory in Bloomington in May. The international chocolatier owns Fannie May and produces Ferrero-Rocher, Nutella, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth and Crunch.

Ferrero has twice signaled a deepening connection to Illinois, opening a 45,000-square-foot “Innovation Center” in Chicago’s Marshall Field and Company Building in September 2023 in addition to its new Bloomington manufacturing facility.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.