The Ferrero Group is acquiring Wells Enterprises, its operations and its ice cream brands, which include Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon Classics, Bomb Pop and Halo Top.
The acquisition is part of Ferrero’s strategic growth ambitions for the ice cream category and Wells’ vision for accelerated growth.
Ferrero and Wells are both family companies with confectionery and ice cream experience.
Ferrero – which started in 1946 as a small pastry shop in Alba, Italy – has grown to become a global leader in sweet-packaged foods, including confectionery, biscuits, ice cream and better-for-you-snacking. Its brands include Nutella, Kinder, Tic Tac and Ferrero Rocher.
Wells has become the world’s largest family owned and managed ice cream company since it was founded in 1913 as a dairy delivery wagon business.
Wells Enterprises will remain a stand-alone business with its offices in Le Mars, Iowa and production operations in Le Mars; Henderson, Nevada; and Dunkirk, New York. After the transaction closes, Mike Wells, member of the founding family and current chief executive officer and chief engagement officer, will serve as an adviser to support the transition and maintain his active role in the Le Mars community. Current Wells President Liam Killeen will be named chief executive officer, and the existing leadership team will remain in place.
“We are a 100-year-old company focused on adapting for the next 100 years,” said Mike Wells. “Ferrero is a likeminded company with a commitment to providing high-quality, premium sweet-packaged food products that bring joy to consumers around the world. This acquisition puts the business in the best possible hands, and I look forward to supporting the entire Wells team and Ferrero with the transition.”
“This is an exciting day that accelerates growth and ensures a bright future for our company and everyone associated with it,” said Liam Killeen. “Ferrero’s brands and reputation for world-class quality are a perfect match with what has made Wells so successful – and we will be even better together going forward.”
This deal continues the Ferrero Group’s expansion agenda in North America following the successfully managed acquisitions of Fannie May (2017), former Nestle US confectionery business and Kellogg company’s cookies and fruit snacks businesses (2018). Ferrero’s North American footprint expansion has been further strengthened through its related parties, with the acquisition of Ferrara Candy Company (2017) – manufacturer and US candy market category leader of well-loved brands Nerds, Trolli, Sweet-tarts and Black Forest. The company has also expanded its capabilities in the region, with a new Innovation Center and R&D Lab in Chicago, as well as two major expansions to its Bloomington, Illinois plans. The strong growth means Ferrero and its related parties now count more than 8,000 employees, 9 offices and 18 plants in North America.
“I am delighted that Wells has agreed to join the Ferrero Group. This represents a win-win partnership, bringing together ice cream experts and confectionery champions. Together, we have the power of one and are well placed to grow and compete in the ice cream market,” said Giovanni Ferrero, executive chairman of the Ferrero Group. “As Wells transitions from one family to another, we are committed to a long and successful future, building on their legacy of fantastic products and looking after the welfare of employees and the wider community in Le Mars. I strongly believe that Wells and Ferrero are the perfect match and would like to thank Mike Wells and the Wells family for entrusting ownership of this great company to us.”
The transaction, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close in early 2023. Terms of the transaction are not being disclosed. UBS Investment Bank acted as exclusive financial advisor and McDermott Will & Emery LLP served as legal counsel to Wells. Morgan Stanley & Co. International plc acted as exclusive financial advisor and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP served as legal counsel to Ferrero.
“I would like to extend a very warm welcome to everyone at Wells, a remarkable ice cream producer with a fantastic portfolio of brands that consumers love,” said Lapo Civiletti, chief executive officer of the Ferrero Group. “I would like to congratulate everyone for the impressive success of the company so far and express my full confidence in the management team. I am looking forward to working with Wells as we embark on a new era together with many exciting opportunities ahead.”
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