Original post in The Cleveland Banner

Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks has lauded Friday’s announcement by Mars Wrigley Confectionary of a $142 million investment in the company’s 40-year-old local plant on Peerless Road.

The expansion will lead to 79 new full-times jobs, and it will position the Cleveland facility to be the only Mars Wrigley Confectionary plant corporate-wide to produce the latest addition to the product line of the iconic M&M’s candy.

The investment will support manufacturing of the company’s new Hazelnut Spread M&M’s, which will be filled with hazelnut-filled soft center, similar to M&M’s Caramel candy. Mars officials on Friday said they expect to invest millions of dollars more in its U.S. supply chain and manufacturing in the coming years.

Speaking to the Cleveland Daily Banner, Brooks said the Mars Wrigley Confectionary announcement is “… good news for ‘The City With Spirit.'” The plant expansion, and the addition of new jobs, is coming at a good time as Cleveland continues its manufacturing and non-manufacturing growth, the first-year mayor stressed.

“We are very grateful for the recent announcement from Mars Wrigley Confectionary,” Brooks said.

He pointed to the importance of the Mars Wrigley presence in Cleveland and its contributions to local employment. Brooks also looked to the local plant’s civic contributions, such as its support of MainStreet Cleveland.

For years, the Cleveland plant has served as sponsor of the popular Treat Street candy give-away during the annual Halloween Block Party. The plant, and its workforce, have also been involved in a variety of other civic endeavors in the Cleveland and Bradley County community.

“We appreciate the Mars Wrigley commitment to Cleveland and the hundreds of jobs they have created for years,” Brooks said. “This just makes the relationship with M&M’s that much sweeter.”

The plant expansion reportedly will push the Mars Wrigley workforce at the Cleveland plant to more than 800.

Cleveland Mars Wrigley Confectionary plant site director Mack Phillips said the production facility will begin producing the hazelnut candy next year, with the product hitting the shelves by April.

Phillips said the investment will include hiring new employees, as well as making upgrades to the plant, which will begin after the first of the year.

“The investment includes updating equipment and technology to make the hazelnut spread, as well as packaging innovations for the changing consumer market,” Phillips told the Banner.

He said the investment will also enable the plant to make other upgrades to enable the plant to more efficiently serve its customers.

The growth in popularity of the hazelnut is driving M&M Mars to create the innovative new product in response to customer demand.

“We are always listening to customers,” Phillips said. “There are a lot of hazelnut products out there. We are always evolving and introducing new flavors, so this is a natural extension for us.”

Phillips said the investment will be the first of many over the next several years, strengthening the company’s commitment to Cleveland.

“The workforce here is fantastic,” Phillips said.

According to a press release, the expansion in Cleveland is Mars’ latest in a series of commitments to manufacturing in the United States, after the company invested $1 billion over the past five years, creating 1,000 new jobs.

This included a $100 million expansion in Topeka, Kan., to support M&M’s Caramel, which became the fastest-selling confectionery innovation ever.

The hazelnuts grown in the United States are primarily from the West Coast, according to Phillips. He said most of the hazelnuts that will be processed in Cleveland will be Oregon-grown.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery is the world’s leading manufacturer of chocolate, chewing gum, mints and fruity confections. The company employs approximately 30,000 associates in 70 nations.

Headquartered in Chicago, Mars Wrigley Confectionery distributes its world-famous brands including M&M’s, Snickers, Twix, Skittles and Orbit in more than 180 countries.

The Oregon Hazelnut Industry’s website lists the following fun facts about the hazelnut:

  • Hazelnuts are also known as “filberts.” Some speculate the name originated from “full beard,” which refers to the husk (or “beard”) that entirely covers the nut in some varieties. Others believe the name was derived from St. Philibert, as Aug. 22 (a date that corresponds to the ripening of the earliest filberts in England) is dedicated to him.
  • The total value growers received for their hazelnut crop has averaged nearly $100 million during the last five years. This translates into a total economic impact of more than $250 million in Oregon.
  • Hazelnut trees can produce until they are more than 100 years of age.
  • The hazelnut is unique in that it blooms and pollinates in the middle of winter. Wind carries the pollen from yellow catkins to a tiny red flower, where it stays dormant until June, when the nut begins to form.
  • The nuts mature during the summer months, turning from green to shades of hazel nestled in a protective husk, and are harvested in late September or October after they have fallen to the ground.