After the official ribbon-cutting, guests toured the 44,000-square-foot, $42 million facility dedicated to chocolate and nut testing, research and innovation. The tour featured stops in the:
- Clean Nut Kitchen, where pasteurized peanuts and some tree nuts undergo special testing, evaluation and processing;
- Prototype Test Kitchen, where ideas for new confections are developed and tested;
- Panning Room, where M&M'S get their signature candy shell in a process that can take up to five hours; and
- Pilot Product Line, a flexible, first-of-its-kind line that mimics factory conditions and is capable of innovating an endless potential of bar treats and can produce M&M'S centers.
As Mars looks to double its snacking business in the next decade, the new facility will give the company's 300 R&D associates in Chicago runway to create and refine new products before they are scaled at large around the globe.
The Global Research and Development Hub is designed to not just keep up with the evolving snacking landscape and rapidly shifting consumer demands, but rather stay ahead — something particularly important to convenience store retailers.
[Read more: Mars Wrigley Unwraps New Innovations]
"The new facility is best-in-class. It will centralize crucial innovation components under one roof while also serving as a testing ground for future-focused, sustainable ingredients and packaging," James Mills, vice president of global sales at Mars, told Convenience Store News.
"At Mars, our innovations are consumer- and shopper-led, and this has helped us achieve a century of success. With a stable of iconic household brands, we've always worked to stay culturally relevant and meet the shopper’s needs through research and insights," he added. "We collaborate closely with our retail partners to improve the omnichannel shopping experience and co-create the snacking aisle of the future in both digital and physical places, delighting customers and driving growth."
Mars has a long history in Chicago. The company opened its first largescale factory in the Windy City in 1929, which ushered in the launch of Snickers in 1930, 3 Musketeers in 1932, and M&M'S first made for the U.S. military in 1941.
The Global Research and Development Hub joins Mars' network of existing global innovation sites in Guangzhou, China; Huariou, China; Slough, United Kingdom; and Elizabethtown, Pa.