The Italian confectionery manufacturer Ferrero becomes the owner of the world's largest production site for ice cream.

He buys the American company Wells Enterprises, which operates two large plants at its headquarters in the small town of Le Mars, Iowa.

Wells Enterprises is a nearly 100-year-old, family-owned company that expects sales of $1.7 billion this year with its 4,100 employees and brands such as Blue Bunny and Halo Top.

It describes itself as the largest family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the world.

Christian Schubert

Economic correspondent for Italy and Greece.

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The less-than-sightseeing area of ​​the United States once had the idea of ​​marketing Le Mars as the "Ice Cream Capital of the World," and Wells' two plants produce more than 500,000 liters of ice cream there annually, according to the company more than any other location on earth.

But according to CEO Mike Wells, no family member wants to lead the company into the future.

However, a number of similarities were quickly found with Ferrero.

More and more snacks belong to Ferrero

The Italian group, founded in 1946, has more than ten times as much turnover today with core brands such as Nutella, Kinder, Tic Tac and Ferrero Rocher, but it is also family-owned and has its roots in the small town of Alba in Piedmont, even if the legal and operational headquarters was moved to Luxembourg decades ago.

Ferrero promises to continue Wells as a largely "standalone" company and all of its locations.

Wells' current president, Liam Killeen, is set to become CEO of the American company.

With the takeover, Ferrero continues its expansion through acquisitions.

In 2015, after the death of Michele Ferrero, the inventor of Nutella and Tic Tac, a round of acquisitions began, particularly in North America.

In 2017, Ferrero bought the confectionery manufacturer Fannie May from Nestlé, followed by Kellogg's fruit and snacks business the following year.

The Italian company now employs more than 8,000 of its almost 39,000 employees in 18 plants and 9 office locations in North America.

Ice cream is a growth market

It was agreed not to disclose the purchase price.

It should be several billion euros.

The American manufacturer Hershey is traded on the stock exchange at almost five times the value of its turnover.

In 2018, Ferrero bought the $900 million Nestlé confectionery business for $2.8 billion.

Ice cream is an interesting growth market.

According to various studies, global sales would increase by 3 to 4 percent a year until 2030.

Therefore, Ferrero bought the leading Spanish manufacturer Ice Cream Factory Comaker (ICFC) in a two-stage transaction in 2019 and 2021.

The Rocher and Raffaelo chocolates are also available as popsicles and are made in a Spanish ICFC factory.

Together with Unilever, Ferrero is also releasing an ice cream version of the children's brand.

Across all product categories, Ferrero increased its sales by 3.4 percent to 12.7 billion euros in the fiscal year ended August 2021.

Much more is not known, the company is extremely secretive.

Giovanni Ferrero, who has been running the business since his brother's death more than eleven years ago, is considered the richest man in Italy.

The family's fortune is estimated at $42 billion by Bloomberg news agency.

At the beginning of the year, Ferrero was confronted with salmonella poisoning in its children's products, which originated in a Belgian factory.

The cause has now been eliminated, but the result was a loss of sales and a damaged reputation.