BUSINESS GROWTH - Mars Chocolate North America
While innovation and advancement are critical components to continued business success, growth also plays a vital role in keeping businesses viable into the future.
GROWTH CAN OCCUR through various channels. For some businesses, growth means producing and selling more of an existing product through higher market penetration and increased demand. For others, growth comes from expansion into new markets where they can offer products and services in different locations. Still, other businesses use acquisition of other companies to grow an existing business.
Local companies are using these growth strategies to take their business to the next level.
Expansion in Topeka
Mars Chocolate North America opened for operations in 2014 and has continued expanding its product lines and its facilities since that time. The most recent expansion increased the facility space to approximately 600,000 square feet and created 60 additional full-time jobs and 50 part-time jobs, bringing the total employment to more than 400 associates.
The $55 million expansion resulted from increased demand from consumers and retailers for greater choice in product, calorie and price options. In recent months, Mars Chocolate has brought to market a range of new product offerings with a focus on introducing more options with less than 200 calories.
The selection of Topeka as the company’s newest facility was based on a number of factors including area logistics, access to skilled labor, technical attributes of the land itself such as utilities and rail, and finally, the quality of life for our associates, said Brett Spangler, Topeka Site Director, Mars Chocolate North America.
“We love being in Topeka and we’re excited to keep investing in this community, in the U.S. economy and in our future,” Spangler said.
The Topeka facility was designed and built for expansion, so when Mars decided to introduce a new line of candy, the Topeka location was a logical choice. The most recent expansion begins construction this year and will begin producing TWIX chocolate bars via a new line in the second quarter of 2018.
Another new addition to the Mars lineup is the M&M’s Caramel. Spangler said this candy was a technological challenge because they had to figure out how to make the chocolate not too sticky and not too soft, to prevent the M&M from collapsing. The company wanted to make sure they had it right—and the Topeka facility has the innovative technology needed to produce M&M’s Caramel.
The Topeka plant is a state-of-the-art facility with production capacity for millions of individually wrapped and packaged candies. The design and build of Topeka was based on the many years of experience and learning from Mars’ global footprint of manufacturing sites. Named “Plant of the Year” by Food Engineering magazine, the facility is LEED Gold Certified and meets Mars’ stringent sustainability standards. The Topeka plant offers employees an on-site gym, a 24-hour cafeteria focused on healthy options, a tobacco free campus and multiple enhancements to the manufacturing floor environment such as large amounts of natural light, ergonomic designs, and open and inviting work areas.
Significant growth often comes with its own set of challenges. Spangler said the biggest challenge the company faces is filling the range of manufacturing and supply chain jobs available at the Topeka plant as they prepare to produce new products like M&M’S Caramel and TWIX. However, strategic relationships with Washburn Tech and the Topeka Workforce Center to support workforce development will help alleviate that challenge.
As Mars Chocolate continues to bring new products to market and expand its footprint in the U.S., the potential for additional expansion of the Topeka facility remains likely.
“At Mars, our ongoing commitment to local manufacturing is fundamental to our DNA and how we operate,” Spangler said. “We appreciate all of the support we have received from the City of Topeka, Shawnee County, GO Topeka and the state of Kansas in welcoming us here.”