November 22, 2023

Illinois Food Innovation is Behind These American Treat Traditions

As the holidays grow closer, Americans’ thoughts turn to their favorite seasonal foods. From the earthy nuttiness of pumpkin to the sweet/tart and soft/crisp contrast of a taffy apple, Illinois’ expertise in food innovation has turned it into a cornucopia of comforting and flavorful treats.

No. 1 in pumpkins

Illinois is the largest pumpkin producer in the U.S., with total output expected to top 650 million pounds this year. In fact, Illinois produces more pumpkins than the next five states combined, with 15,900 acres of pumpkin patches across the state. Most of these pumpkins end up as pie filling on holiday table settings around the country. There are two major pumpkin processing plants in central Illinois: Seneca Foods in Princeville, and Libby’s in Morton, the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World.

Pumpkins aren’t the only Illinois crop with a connection to holiday dinner tables. The state is also the top producer of soybeans in the U.S., thanks not only to great soil and climate but robust infrastructure that gives growers a competitive advantage in getting their crops to market. Soybeans are also the main ingredient in poultry diets while soy oils and proteins are used in many other food and consumer products.

75 years of taffy apples in Chicago

If autumn had a taste, it might very well be a taffy apple. Born in Chicago, the heavenly combination of gooey caramel and tangy fruit celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The tasty treat was invented in 1948 by Edna Kastrup, who went on to start Affy Tapple, a name chosen so that it would appear first in the phone book. Originally located in Rogers Park, Affy Tapple moved production to Niles in 2000.

New Ferrero facility focuses on future tasty treats

Illinois is also busy inventing future tasty traditions. In September, international chocolate and candy giant Ferrero opened its new Innovation Center and North America R&D Labs in Chicago. Ferrero is known for brands such as Keebler, Famous Amos, Mother’s, Fannie May and others. The new state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot facility will employ more than 150 people to develop new types of cookies, candy, and other treats.

Ferrero currently makes Butterfinger and Baby Ruth candy bars as well as Keebler products in Chicago, while a plant in Bloomington makes CRUNCH and 100 Grand bars, and will soon expand into Kinder Bueno and other chocolate production.

The company recently expanded its Bloomington facility, committing $214.4 million and creating 200 new jobs over four years.

“Central Illinois sits in the heart of our nation, so it’s only fitting that it serves as the heart of Ferrero’s North American operations: CRUNCH, 100 Grand, Raisinets, and now Kinder Bueno, all made right here,” said Governor JB Pritzker at the facility groundbreaking. “This expansion is a testament to Illinois’ quality workforce and reputation on the global stage.”

As a food innovation and production hub, Illinois is home to many beloved American treats. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of growing your business in Illinois, contact us here.

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