Food

Ferrara to purchase candy maker Jelly Belly for undisclosed amount

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Dive Brief:

  • Ferrara Candy is buying jelly bean maker Jelly Belly Candy for an undisclosed amount. The proposed deal would combine Jelly Belly, whose roots date back to 1869, with Ferrara’s broad portfolio of candies such as Laffy Taffy, Red Hots, Brach’s and SweeTarts.
  • Jeff Brown, who is currently the executive vice president of global operations and distribution of Jelly Belly, will become its CEO.
  • Nutella maker Ferrero Group, which purchased Ferrara in 2017, has been rapidly expanding its U.S. reach through a series of deals by growing its candy portfolio while entering new categories such as cookies and ice cream.

Dive Insight:

In a 2019 interview, Lisa Rowland Brasher, who was among the fifth generation to lead Jelly Belly, told Food Dive that she gets a request from someone looking to buy the company “probably every week.”

“They’ve all been here. They’ve all asked,” she said at the time. “Some people can’t really understand why you wouldn’t sell it, but when you have this many generations … still working in the business as well, there is just more to it.”

In choosing to sell the storied company now, Herman Rowland, Sr., Jelly Belly’s chairman, said in a statement that the Ferrara team offered a “like-minded group that shares our knowledge and passion for the candy business and has the talent and resources to grow our products.”

Ferrara is no stranger to the candy space with a large portfolio of recognizable brands. Now, the sweets maker is adding to the fold another iconic brand in Jelly Belly. Ferrara will be able to tap into its expertise with harder candies, innovation insight and close relationships with retailers to grow the brand. 

Nearly a half-century ago, executives at little-known sweets maker Herman Goelitz Candy discovered a way to infuse flavor into the center of a jelly bean.

The revolutionary breakthrough eventually helped turn the company, better known to consumers today as Jelly Belly, into a household name that produces about 15 billion brightly colored bean-shaped treats each year in popular flavors such as cherry, popcorn and root beer. It’s possible that Ferrara can find ways to bring these and other unique flavors, along with the technology, to some of its other brands.

“We are excited to bring Jelly Belly’s imaginative products and talented team into the Ferrara community,” said Marco Capurso, Ferrara’s CEO. “Our dedication to creating high-quality, innovative sugar confections for the world and our deep relationships with retailers aligns perfectly with the Jelly Belly track record and passion for quality, reliability and customer service.”

The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year.

Ferrero — best known for its Nutella spread, Tic Tac breath mints and Ferrero Rocher candies — has been on an acquisition binge to expand its presence in the U.S. and evolve into a formidable competitor to companies including Hershey, Mars Wrigley and Mondelēz International.

Since 2017, Ferrero also has paid $2.8 billion to Nestlé for candies such as Butterfinger, while dolling out another $1.3 billion to Kellogg for Keebler, Mother’s, Famous Amos, among other brands. Most recently, it acquired ice cream maker Wells Enterprises, the manufacturer of Blue Bunny and Halo Top.

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