Mars opens $42M snacking innovation and R&D facility in Chicago

Feb. 8, 2024
The new 44,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will be dedicated to chocolate and nut testing, research and innovation, and it makes Chicago the largest innovation hub in Mars’ global stable of snacking R&D sites.

Mars announced the opening of its Global Research and Development Hub on its Goose Island campus, the global headquarters of the company’s Snacking business. One of seven Mars global innovation sites around the world, the 44,000-square-foot, $42 million facility will be dedicated to chocolate and nut testing, research and innovation.

As Mars looks to double its Snacking business in the next decade, the new facility will give Mars’ 300 R&D associates in Chicago runway to create and refine new products for the company’s multi-billion-dollar snacking portfolio before they are scaled at large around the globe.

The new site will centralize crucial innovation components under one roof while also serving as a testing ground for future-focused, sustainable ingredients. Recipes will be perfected in small batches in the plant’s contemporary test kitchen, while the flexible bar line, which mimics factory conditions, will allow Mars Snacking Scientists to hone the process of bringing new products to scale. A dedicated nut facility inside the plant will also enable next-generation testing, evaluation and application of peanuts and tree nuts within Mars products, key to brands such as Snickers, M&M’s And Kind.

"This state-of-the-art facility will serve as the epicenter for the kind of groundbreaking research and development that will shape the snacking category for generations to come,” Andrew Clarke, global president, Mars Snacking, said in the announcement. “Innovation has been at the heart of our success for over 100 years, and this significant investment reaffirms our unwavering commitment to staying ahead of the curve. With an assembly of trailblazing associates, pioneering partnerships that ignite our creativity and unparalleled technology at our fingertips, we will continue to push boundaries in our relentless pursuit of delivering extraordinary experiences for our consumers around the world.”

From the next-generation science behind critical ingredients such as peanuts, to the easily adaptable pilot product line, the Hub is designed to not just keep up, but stay ahead of an evolving snacking landscape and rapidly shifting consumer demands. The world-class facility has been designed with sustainability front of mind. It will be powered 100% with renewable energy which is fossil-fuel free and covered by renewable energy credits from Mars’ wind farm in Ford Ridge, Illinois.

Chicago has been deeply embedded in Mars’ history from the turn of the 20th century when the company opened its first large-scale factory in the Windy City in 1929. It was also the longtime home of the Wrigley Company, the Chicago-born stalwart known for its gum and fruity confections, which Mars acquired in 2008.

The Global Innovation Hub will join Mars’ network of existing global innovation sites in Chicago, Illinois; Guangzhou, China; Huariou, China; Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania; and Slough, United Kingdom.

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