- Halo Top Creamery is planning to permanently close a production facility in Chicago and lay off 28 workers between Dec. 28 and March 13, 2020, according to a State of Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification notice for October. A 60-day notice of plant closure is required under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act for companies with 100 or more employees.
- In a supplemental section at the end of the WARN notice, five additional layoffs starting on Oct. 31 were attributed to the ice cream manufacturer's Chicago office, but there were no details about what positions they impacted.
- Halo Top, a popular low-calorie, high-protein ice cream brand, was recently acquired from Eden Creamery for an undisclosed amount by Wells Enterprises of Le Mars, Iowa. The company, which makes Blue Bunny ice cream and other frozen treats, is the No. 2 ice cream maker in the U.S., and CEO Mike Wells has said he would like the firm to grow another 20% to knock Unilever out of the top spot.
Halo Top's closure of its Chicago facility and subsequent layoffs could be a result of its acquisition. Wells Enterprises' headquarters and two production facilities are about 500 miles west of Chicago, so the company may have decided to relocate work to its home base. Wells moved its sales and marketing functions to Chicago last year, so it will continue to have a presence there even without the Halo Top plant.
Despite the plant closure in the Windy City, Wells appears to be expanding the company's manufacturing capacity and is pushing west with the purchase of an ice cream facility in Nevada from Unilever in September, the same month of its Halo Top deal.
Since the purchase, Halo Top has made other changes to its operations. Last month, the company permanently closed its scoop shops in California and is concentrating on retail distribution. It has also expanded its offerings beyond its low-calorie, high protein ice cream, launching its indulgent Platinum Series that includes both pints and bars.
It's not unusual for plant consolidations and layoffs to occur after a company is sold. RXBAR laid off 40 employees last December about a year after being bought by Kellogg, although the company said at the time the layoffs were planned before the acquisition. It takes time to combine operations, after which duplicative efforts and overlapping positions are usually shed.
With the acquisition of Halo Top, Wells landed a coveted brand. While Wells already owns brands such as Bomb Pop, Blue Ribbon Classics and Chilly Cow, Halo Top has had quite the rise, becoming the top-selling ice cream pint in the country in 2017. Wells will no doubt leverage that popularity and will use its ample resources to try to push the brand into the top ice cream maker spot.
Wells, however, will need to be careful not to change the qualities that made Halo Top so popular in the first place as it faces competition from other big ice cream brands such as Unilever and Target who have tried to release similar products. The launch of the Platinum Series may be its first test in developing a product that shifts from its core better-for-you ice cream. While the products are still being advertised as lower calorie, it appears to be moving away from its previous better-for-you marketing.