Sweets maker Ferrero celebrates opening of innovation and research center at Marshall Field

The company’s new center will bring together its research and development teams throughout the U.S. to develop new products, as well as existing brands such as Keebler and Fannie May.

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Lab specialists with sweets maker Ferrero pull out a tray of cookies Tuesday, during the opening of the company’s innovation center at the Marshall Field and Co. building in the Loop.

Lab specialists with sweets maker Ferrero pull out a tray of cookies Tuesday, during the opening of the company’s innovation center at the Marshall Field and Co. building in the Loop.

Phyllis Cha/Sun-Times

Sweet treats were on display Tuesday to celebrate the opening of Ferrero’s Innovation Center and North America Research and Development Labs inside the Marshall Field and Co. building in the Loop.

The sweet-packaged food company — known for Rocher, Nutella and Kinder chocolates — opened the center to bring together its research and development teams throughout the U.S. to work on developing new confectionary and packaged food products, as well as existing brands in the Ferrero portfolio such as Keebler and Famous Amos.

Alanna Cotton, president and chief business officer of Ferrero North America, said the new facility will focus on short-term and long-term innovation. Some of these innovations include recipe development for new products that customers will soon see in stores and technology the company will employ in the decades to come, such as keeping cookies fresh longer.

“What you’re going to see is this really good combination of short-term innovation but also how do we make sure we continue to delight consumers along the way,” Cotton said. “It [the center] is really going to become an important catalyst for what we’re doing.”

Cotton was joined by city leaders for the company’s ribbon cutting, including Mayor Brandon Johnson.

“Chicago’s innovation is not only propelling the growth of iconic global brands like Keebler, Famous Amos and Fannie May, but it’s also cementing our city’s reputation as a prime destination for the world’s best talent and businesses,” Johnson said.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, left, with Alanna Cotton, president and chief business officer of Ferrero North America, and Ald. Bill Conway (34th) at the ribbon cutting for Ferrero’s Innovation Center and North America Research and Development Labs.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, left, with Alanna Cotton, president and chief business officer of Ferrero North America, and Ald. Bill Conway (34th) at the ribbon cutting for Ferrero’s Innovation Center and North America Research and Development Labs.

Phyllis Cha/Sun-Times

The 45,000-square-foot center employs a total of about 150 people on the eighth and ninth floors of the Marshall Field and Co. building, a historic landmark, at 24 E. Washington St. The building was once home to Frango, the chocolate brand known for its mints and made on the 13th floor before moving its candy production to Pennsylvania in 1999.

“Keebler, Famous Amos, Fannie May and so many other beloved Ferrero brands are as iconic as the space they will now call home in the Marshall Field and Company building in the heart of downtown Chicago,” said Ald. Bill Conway (34th).

Ferrero laboratory specialists will create new products on the ninth floor, which houses the R&D center. Teams for Fannie May, Keebler and others will be on the eighth floor.

The company first announced plans for the center last year, noting that it would be the company’s first innovation center in the U.S.

North America is an important market for the company, said Joao Paulo Andorinha, senior vice president and head of the research and development lab.

“Bringing R&D and innovation teams together here in Chicago to capture the evolving needs and tastes of North American consumers will help Ferrero continue to thrive in this market,” Andorinha said.

The company employs about 1,500 people in Illinois. It produces Butterfinger and Baby Ruth products in Franklin Park and Crunch and other products in Bloomington.

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