Mars Wrigley announces new candy and snack R&D hub

Dive Brief:

  • Mars Wrigley is building a new $40 million R&D center for snacks and treats next to its world headquarters on Goose Island in Chicago. The company expects to break ground on the facility this summer and have employees in it by mid-2023, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Thirty new jobs will be created.
  • The new facility will make the Chicago area home to the largest innovation hub for the global confectioner. The details of the project were announced as the Chicago Plan Commission approved rezoning the property for the center, the Sun-Times reported.
  • This announcement comes a few months after Mars said it was shuttering its oldest candy manufacturing facility in Chicago in the next two years. In the release about the new facility, Mars pointed out how deep the company’s commitment is to Chicago — a city where both Mars and Wrigley have roots.

Dive Insight:

This announcement does two immediate things for Mars Wrigley. It reaffirms the company’s deep connection to Chicago, but it also shows that Mars Wrigley is committed to innovating its candies and snacks to continue following consumer and health trends. Both are important to Mars’ larger image both in its local business community and to the food industry as a whole.

“Mars has made Chicago home to innovation for nearly 100 years, producing some of the world’s most beloved and iconic snacks and treats,” Chris Rowe, Mars Wrigley’s global vice president of research and development, said in the announcement. “Creating new jobs and a world-class, multimillion-dollar research and development hub demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the Chicagoland area and accelerates our future for innovation. This facility brings exciting new capabilities and enhances the vibrant innovation culture Mars has on Goose Island.” 

Mars is known for its innovation culture, and this new facility will give another opportunity to unlock it. In 2020 alone, according to Crain’s Chicago Business, R&D at Goose Island led to six patents for items ranging from packaging to gum. The company is perpetually launching new versions of candies and snacks, including new takes on classics like M&Ms and Snickers as well as new formats for non-chocolate Skittles and Starburst.

But Mars is also innovating throughout food. The company sponsors two divisions dedicated to research and innovation that go beyond snacking and confections — but often connect there. The Mars Edge division focuses on improving nutrition, but a lot of its current research is centered around flavonols in cocoa. The Mars Advanced Research Institute, commonly abbreviated MARI, uses science to advance both Mars and the food industry into the future. A recent focus of MARI is creating a natural blue pigment, which has been a distinct challenge for Mars’ M&Ms.

This isn’t the only addition to Mars’ signature facilities. Parent company Mars Incorporated filed paperwork last month to expand its suburban Washington, D.C., headquarters in Virginia, where it has been located since 1984. The company plans to demolish one building on the site so it can expand another, adding about 31,000 square feet to the location, Washington Business Journal reported.