Ferrero expands into US ice cream market with key Wells Enterprises acquistion
The Ferrero Group has moved to acquire US-based major ice cream business Wells Enterprises, as the confectionery group continues to expand its overall global product portfolio, reports Neill Barston.
According to the Italian-founded business, while the terms of the deal have not been revealed, it is part of its wider strategic development within the segment.
Wells presently has a number of well known brands including Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon Classics, Bomb Pop and Halo Top, with Ferrero noting that the newly acquired firm – which will remain as a standalone business, shares its family-owned operating ethos for its focus on quality and celebration of its well established manufacturing heritage.
While Ferrero traces its history back to 1946 in Alba, Italy, it has gone on to forge success with brands including Nutella, Kinder, Tic Tac and its classic Rocher series. The Wells business has an even more extensive story, dating back to 1913, and is now considered to be the world’s largest family-owned enterprise in the sector.
It has offices in in Le Mars, Iowa and production operations in Le Mars; Henderson, Nevada; and Dunkirk, New York. After the transaction closes, Mike Wells, member of the founding family and current chief executive officer and chief engagement officer, will serve as an adviser to support the transition and maintain his active role in the Le Mars community. Current Wells President Liam Killeen will be named Chief Executive Officer, and the existing leadership team will remain in place.
“We are a 100-year-old company focused on adapting for the next 100 years,” said Mike Wells. “Ferrero is a likeminded company with a commitment to providing high-quality, premium sweet-packaged food products that bring joy to consumers around the world. This acquisition puts the business in the best possible hands, and I look forward to supporting the entire Wells team and Ferrero with the transition.”
“This is an exciting day that accelerates growth and ensures a bright future for our company and everyone associated with it,” said Liam Killeen. “Ferrero’s brands and reputation for world-class quality are a perfect match with what has made Wells so successful – and we will be even better together going forward.”
Notably, the deal continues the Ferrero Group’s expansion agenda in North America following the successfully managed acquisitions of Fannie May (2017), former Nestlé U.S. confectionery business and Kellogg company’s cookies and fruit snacks businesses in 2018.
Ferrero’s North American footprint expansion has been further strengthened through its related parties, with the acquisition of Ferrara Candy Company (2017) – manufacturer and U.S. candy market category leader of well-loved brands Nerds, Trolli, Sweet-tarts and Black Forest.
The company has also expanded its capabilities in the region, with a new Innovation Centre and R&D Lab in Chicago, as well as two major expansions to its Bloomington, Illinois plant. The strong growth means Ferrero and its related parties now count more than 8,000 employees, 9 offices and 18 plants in North America.
“I am delighted that Wells has agreed to join the Ferrero Group. This represents a win-win partnership, bringing together ice cream experts and confectionery champions. Together, we have the power of one and are well placed to grow and compete in the ice cream market,” said Giovanni Ferrero, Executive Chairman of the Ferrero Group.
“As Wells transitions from one family to another, we are committed to a long and successful future, building on their legacy of fantastic products and looking after the welfare of employees and the wider community in Le Mars,” Giovanni Ferrero continued. “I strongly believe that Wells and Ferrero are the perfect match and would like to thank Mike Wells and the Wells family for entrusting ownership of this great company to us.”
The deal is subject to standard closing conditions, and is expected to be concluded early in 2023. The key acquisition was also welcomed by Lapo Civiletti, Chief Executive Officer of the Ferrero Group, who believed it would be a strong addition to its operations.
He said: “I would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone at Wells, a remarkable ice cream producer with a fantastic portfolio of brands that consumers love. I would like to congratulate everyone for the impressive success of the company so far and express my full confidence in the management team. I am looking forward to working with Wells as we embark on a new era together with many exciting opportunities ahead.”