5 Things to Know about new candy plant in Kansas

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Mars Inc. is confident in Americans’ sweet tooth. The candy giant has built a $270 million plant - its first in North America in 35 years - in Kansas that will churn out millions of chocolate bars and other sweets each day.

Here are five things to know about the project:

SELLING SWEETS: Mars Inc. is bullish about the future of chocolate sales in the U.S. and believes it needs the additional capacity to meet Americans’ demand for its M&M;’s and Snickers-brand candy. An industry analyst said candy companies can expect the annual growth in chocolate sales to stay above 3 percent into the future, a pretty healthy rate for the snack-foods market.

CHOCOLATE RIVER: The new plant will be able to produce 14 million bite-sized Snickers bars each day, along with 39 million M&M;’s, which is enough to fill 1.5 million fun-sized packages. The 500,000-square-foot facility was built south of Topeka and is the company’s first new plant in North America in more than three decades.

SWEET DEAL: Topeka-area officials see the plant as a major boon to the region. The plant will have more than 200 employees, and the company has contributed $200,000 to downtown redevelopment efforts. The plant also is pursuing a “gold” certification for environmental sustainability from the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.

PLANET MARS: The family-owned Mars Inc. reports annual net sales of $33 billion and more than 72,000 employees in 74 countries. Its chocolate unit, Mars Chocolate, produces 29 brands that include M&M;’s and Snickers, which the company says are billion-dollar brands. Another division, Wrigley, produces gum, hard candies and chewy candies. Mars also has non-candy food products, produces pet foods and runs pet hospitals.

LOCAL FANS: Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast keeps a dispenser of peanut M&M;’s on his desk at City Hall. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he favors almond M&M;’s, and he sees it as fitting that many Americans will get the sweet snacks from the Heartland.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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