Ferrero Group to acquire Wells Enterprises
LE MARS — The Ferrero Group (Ferrero) and Wells Enterprises (Wells)announced an agreement Wednesday, Dec. 7, for Ferrero to acquire Wells, its operations and its strong 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.
Wells employees in Le Mars were taken by buses from the plant to the Le Mars Convention Center for a meeting at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday. That meeting lasted approximately an hour. A second employee meeting was held at 9 p.m., for the night shift workers.
Ferrero and Wells are both family companies with extensive confectionery and ice cream experience, quality products, proud heritage and a strong portfolio of well-loved brands.
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, 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.”
“We brought together all of our locations for one call at 9:30 a.m., (CST), Wednesday,” said Lesley Bartholomew, Director of Communications for Wells Enterprises, Inc.
“Part of our operations team was at the Le Mars Convention Center, and then we had the rest of the Le Mars team that work during the day at the corporate center. For those who were unable to attend, we were also able to provide a livestream link so they could join all at the same time,” she explained. “So our Henderson, Nevada, facility, Dunkirk, New York, Chicago, Illinois, and Bentonville, Arkansas, teams were all on the same call at 9:30 in the morning, hearing the message from both Mike Wells and Giovanni Ferrero.”
“We wanted to treat our night shift just like we treated our day shift. Our operations team was at the Le Mars Convention Center at 9 p.m., where Mike addressed that team,” she continued. “They were, of course, well aware of the announcement, so it was really a good Q&A session for them.”
She indicated employees asked thoughtful and insightful questions, such as “are we going to make Ferrero product in Le Mars” to “what does this mean for us going forward.”
“They were excited,” she said. “We were able to answer most of the questions and I think employees walked away with a better understanding. That was our goal. We wanted them to really understanding who the Ferrero Company is, how they value the same things as Wells Enterprises does and two private family companies coming together and we will grow.”
“It’s a great opportunity for us to grow all of our brands,” she added.
This deal continues the Ferrero Group’s expansion agenda in North America following the successfully managed acquisitions of Fannie May (2017), former Nestlé U.S. confectionery business and Kellogg company’s cookies and fruit snacks businesses (2018).
The Ferrero’s North American footprint expansion has been further strengthened through its related parties, with the acquisition of Ferrara Candy Company (2017) - manufacturer and U.S. 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 plant. The strong growth means Ferrero and its related parties now count more than 8,000 employees, nine 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,” Giovanni Ferrero continued. “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.”
Lapo Civiletti, Chief Executive Officer of the Ferrero Group, added: “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. 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.”
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.
About Wells Enterprises
Founded in 1913 by Fred H. Wells, Wells Enterprises produces more than 200 million gallons of ice cream per year and distributes products in all 50 U.S. states. Wells manufactures its signature brand Blue Bunny, Halo Top, the iconic Bomb Pop, and Blue Ribbon Classics. Wells employs more than 4,000 ice cream aficionados across the country. The company is headquartered in Iowa and operates two manufacturing plants in Le Mars, a manufacturing plant in Dunkirk, New York, and a manufacturing facility in Henderson, Nevada. As the world’s largest manufacturer of ice cream in one location, Wells has made Le Mars the “Ice Cream Capital of the World®.”
About Ferrero Group
Ferrero began its story in the little town of Alba in Piedmont, Italy, in 1946. The Ferrero Group brings joy to people around the world with much-loved treats including Nutella, Kinder, Tic Tac, and Ferrero Rocher. Ferrero Group is one of the world’s largest sweet-packaged food companies, with over 35 iconic brands sold in more than 170 countries. More than 38,000 employees are committed to helping people celebrate life’s special moments with high-quality products. Commitment to the planet and communities in which we operate are at the heart of Ferrero Group’s family culture. For more information visit Ferrero.com.