Ferrero Gobbles Up Jelly Belly

Confectionery giant Ferrero SpA owns an assortment of candy store favorites: Nutella, Nerds, Sweet Tarts, Gobstoppers, and Lemonheads, to name a few. If the company’s latest acquisition goes as planned, jellybeans will join the list.

The Luxembourg-based company has offered an undisclosed amount for Jelly Belly, a family-owned brand that first launched in 1976. The transaction “is still being finalized,” according to a Jelly Belly spokesperson.

If successful, Ferrero will make inroads in the $3 billion gummy candy market, long dominated by Germany-based rivals Haribo and Mederer GmbH, followed by Perfetti Van Melle in the Netherlands, Arcor in Argentina, and Yupi in Indonesia.

All 800 employees currently working for Jelly Belly—in its facilities located in California, Illinois, and Thailand— are expected to join Ferrero’s US subsidiary, Ferrara Candy Company. Jelly Belly executive vice president Jeff Brown is slated to be CEO.

“We are excited to bring Jelly Belly’s imaginative products and talented team into the Ferrara community,” Ferrara CEO Marco Capurso said in a prepared statement.

Ferrero, which started as a pastry shop in Alba, Italy in 1946, is no stranger to M&A. Last year, it purchased ice cream maker Wells, the company behind Blue Bunny and Halo Top. Before that, it took over the US confectionary business of Nestlé USA for $2.8 billion, giving it ownership of classic chocolate bars including Baby Ruth, 100 Grand, and Crunch.

Jelly Belly recently tapped Raymond James to run an auction: its first sale process since 1980, when candy maker David Klein sold his stake in the brand to the Herman Goelitz Candy Company for $5 million. With chairman Herman Rowland at the helm, Jelly Belly’s popularity grew; President Ronald Reagan supposedly enjoyed the snack so much, he had a “Jelly Belly jellybean jar” with the Presidential seal on it. All has not been smooth sailing, however. By 2001, Herman Goelitz rebranded as the Jelly Belly Company, but Klein continued calling himself “the founder of Jelly Belly” in other candy-related business endeavors. Jelly Belly and Klein are currently wrangling in court over rights to the phrase.