February 13, 2024

How Illinois Helps Make Valentine’s Day Sweet

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without candy, and Illinois plays a big part in ensuring the holiday of love is as sweet as ever. The state has the second-largest candy economy in the U.S., while Chicago has long been known as the world’s Candy Capital. With its long history in candy making, Illinois continues to position itself as a top location for food companies seeking favor with sweethearts everywhere.

The sweet history of Illinois

Illinois’ history of candy production goes back to the recovery effort after the Great Chicago Fire. After losing his original candy business in the disaster, renowned confectioner Charles F. Gunther opened a new caramel factory, complete with a store on the bottom level, to sell his sticky treats.

Later, during prohibition, many former bars were transformed into ice cream shops, providing many residents with a sugary fix. The National Confectionery Association was also founded in Chicago and helped create candy-making standards for an America that was fast-developing a national sweet tooth.

By the turn of the century, Chicago claimed over a thousand candy producers, earning its reputation as the Candy Capital of the world. To this day, Chicago boasts the perfect location for candy production thanks to its central location, access to a skilled workforce, and meteorological sweet spot: its cooler, milder climate traditionally made it easier for candy to set and harden.

Image credit to Ferrero. Ferrero International S.A. completed the acquisition of Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. and the Harry London chocolate brands from 1-800-FLOWERS.com, Inc.. The acquisition includes all operations of Fannie May, together with the manufacturing facility in two warehouse and distribution facilities, one of two located in Illinois.

An affection for confection

Today, Illinois is home to dozens of advanced confectionary facilities. Brands like Blommer Chocolate, Cupid Candies, Ferrero, Ferrara Candy, Mars, Margie’s Candies, Primrose Candy, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, and World’s Finest Chocolate all take advantage of the region’s unique strengths to provide sweet treats around the globe. Other brands, like Tootsie Rolls, were developed elsewhere in the country before moving to the area to tap into the flourishing candy ecosystem.

Last September, global candy giant Ferrero opened its new Innovation Center and North America R&D Labs in Chicago to dream up new candies and treats. The company also committed $214 million to expand its Bloomington chocolate factory that produces CRUNCH and 100 Grand bars; with the expansion, Ferrero will produce Kinder products in North America for the first time.

Image credit to Mars; Mars has opened a transformative $42 million R&D hub in Chicago.

In 2016, Wrigley, now a unit of Mars Inc., invested $50 million in its Yorkville factory that makes Skittles, Life Savers, and Doublemint. More recently, Mars opened a new $42 million research facility on Chicago’s Goose Island to develop new goodies. The 44,000 square-foot center employs 600 people. These and other food production facilities across the state help rank Illinois at number two in candy production in the U.S.

It’s clear Illinois provides the icing on some of America’s most popular holidays. If you’d like to learn more about the sweet opportunities Illinois can offer your business, contact us here.