Chocolate fever: Mars to invest $100M in Topeka, KS facility expansion
- Mars, Inc. announced that it will begin construction for a $100 million expansion to its facility in Topeka, KS, which makes various M&M's and Snickers products.
- The facility originally opened last year and was the first factory Mars built in North America in 35 years.
- The expansion will tack on 70 jobs to the facility and will be dedicated to product innovation. The renovations are expected to be completed in early 2017.
This announcement may come as a surprise to those who have been watching much of the rest of the processed food industry cut back on production capacity. Cutbacks have been part of cost-cutting measures meant to reduce the pressure felt by falling sales in these categories. As more consumers turn toward healthier foods and away from sugar, it would seem that candy is the last segment consumers would gravitate toward. However, with snacking on the rise in the U.S., confections have actually held their own well compared to other categories.
Mars Chocolate North America president Tracey Massey attributes confections' ability to withstand consumer health trends to the fact that this category is already seen as an indulgence. "We’re a treat. We’re not a food. We’re not a meal. We’re a treat and consumers like to treat themselves," Massey told Fortune.
That being said, Mars has embraced the consumer health trend as well. For example, the company came out in support of health recommendations from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which suggested that consumers reduce their daily intake of sugar.
For the U.S. market, the company created Goodnessknows, a new 150-calorie snack made of fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate with no artificial flavors or colors. The return of Crispy M&M's, which contain fewer calories than the original variety, marks another nod from Mars toward consumers who are looking for healthier snacks.