Ferrero will open innovation center in Chicago

Dive Brief:

  • Ferrero North America will establish a 45,000-square-foot innovation center in Chicago. The facility will bring the confection and snack company’s R&D teams currently located across the U.S. into a single location.
  • About 170 Ferrero employees will work at the new center, which will occupy the 8th and 9th floors of Chicago’s Marshall Field & Co building. It will have offices, an innovation center and R&D labs. It is expected to be completed in spring 2023.
  • Ferrero has been aggressively building its U.S. corporate and manufacturing base in recent months. In the last year, the company has twice announced large expansions to its manufacturing plant in Bloomington, Illinois. It’s also built three new U.S. distribution centers and added to its corporate headquarters.

Dive Insight:

By all measures, Ferrero had been a successful U.S. company for years. While its corporate headquarters are in Alba, Italy, the private company owns several brands popular in the U.S., including its Nutella spread.

But the company has actively grown its U.S. business in recent years. The first step was through acquisitions. In 2017, the company bought Fannie May chocolates and Ferrara Candy, the maker of Brach’s, Nerds and SweeTarts. A year later, Ferrero bought Nestlé’s U.S. candy business for $2.8 billion. And in 2019, Ferrero purchased Kellogg’s cookie brands and fruit snacks, including Keebler and Famous Amos, for $1.3 billion.

With such a dramatically expanded footprint in the U.S. confectionery and sweet snacking space, Ferrero has good reason to build out its infrastructure. In fact, the mission of increasing U.S. business is described in the press release when former Ferrara CEO Todd Siwak was appointed president and chief business officer of Ferrero North America last year. With Siwak’s new position, Ferrero also made North America its own distinct global business region. Siwak reports directly to Ferrero Group CEO Lapo Civiletti.

Establishing a large innovation center in Chicago helps Ferrero achieve its business goals in the U.S. Chicago is already a key hub for the food business, and an innovation center there plugs Ferrero into that community and puts it in an area that has attracted some of the top food scientists, formulators and professionals.  

Putting together top innovators from a variety of Ferrero’s brands also will help the company more cohesively plan and conduct R&D. This new office will include employees already working with its cookie brands in Chicago, and it will add more voices to the company’s discussions. While Ferrero does own a variety of brands, bringing together food scientists to work on common issues can only improve the company’s efficiency and product quality.

This center also could allow very specific research and product development for Ferrero. U.S. consumers may have different preferences in terms of taste, ingredients and manufacturing processes than those in Europe, where the company is based. An R&D center in Chicago can hone in on what those are and design products better targeted for this region.

Ferrero is not the only European company that’s recently established a dedicated U.S. R&D center. Quorn, the British meat alternative brand, recently established a culinary center in Dallas with a mission of better targeting U.S. consumers. This center was integral to helping Quorn develop a new slate of chicken alternative products for the U.S. market that launched in late 2021.