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Deal Won’t Derail Cuts At Wells

Workforce numbers will be about 350 starting in January at the Dunkirk Wells location. File photo

A high-ranking executive at Wells Enterprises in Le Mars, Iowa, says the acquisition of the company by the Ferrero Group will not further impact operations at the ice-cream facility in Dunkirk.

“This announcement does not affect our plan going forward … which has our Dunkirk facility in a reduced capacity next year as we continue to really drive our growth agenda across the network,” said Mark Meyer, chief operating officer, in a phone interview with The Post-Journal and OBSERVER on Wednesday afternoon.

Meyer’s comments came just hours after the official announcement by Wells and the Ferrero Group, which has 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.

Through the deal, Ferrero Group can now build on its strategic growth ambitions in the ice cream category and Wells’ vision for accelerated growth. Ferrero started in 1946 as a small pastry shop in Alba, Italy, while 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, Nev.; and Dunkirk.

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,” Wells said. “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.”

Meyer, who called the announcement “a big day for Wells,” did note that the reduced capacity at the Dunkirk location does not come without pain. At the present time, less than 700 are employed. A layoff of 319 positions at the beginning of 2023 is expected to reduce workforce numbers to 350.

“This acquisition is awesome for Wells and Wells employees,” Meyer said, noting there could be increased investment and jobs for the future at the city plant. “It really gives us a platform to accelerate growth and with growth obviously comes expansion and jobs across our whole network.”

Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas said he was in contact with top officials from Wells shortly after the announcement was made public. He said Wells continues to have the Dunkirk plant in its plans for the future. “I have received assurances there will not be further reductions,” he said.

This deal continues the Ferrero Group’s expansion in North America following the acquisitions of Fannie May in 2017, former Nestle U.S. confectionery business and Kellogg company’s cookies and fruit snacks businesses in 2018. Its North American footprint grew through the acquisition of Ferrara Candy Co. in 2017, a manufacturer and U.S. candy market category leader of 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, Ill., plant. The growth means Ferrero and its related parties now count more than 8,000 employees, nine offices and 18 plants in North America.

“This is an exciting day that accelerates growth and ensures a bright future for our company and everyone associated with it,” Killeen said. “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.”

The transaction is expected to close in early 2023 with terms not being disclosed. “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,” said Giovanni Ferrero, executive chairman of the Ferrero Group. “Together, we have the power of one and are well placed to grow and compete in the ice cream market.”

Meyer, during his phone conversation, made an effort to praise the staff and work that is being done at the Dunkirk location.

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