Halo Top pints of ice cream in Los Angeles, California.
Kirk Mckoy | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
Candy maker Ferrero is buying Wells Enterprises, the ice cream giant that owns Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon Classics and Halo Top.
The two privately held companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal in their announcement on Wednesday. The transaction is expected to close in early 2023.
Ferrero’s portfolio already includes Kinder, Tic Tac and Nutella, but the European company has been pushing into North America through acquisitions over the last five years. It bought Fannie May Confections Brands in 2017 and Nestle’s U.S. candy business and Kellogg’s cookies and fruit snacks division in 2018.
Comfort food staples like ice cream and candy saw their sales soar during the pandemic as consumers looked for ways to treat themselves. The National Confectioners Association said retail sales of chocolate and other candy hit a record $36.9 billion last year. For its part, Ferrero reported global consolidated revenue of 12.7 billion euros ($13.3 billion) in its fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2021.
Mike Wells, a third-generation member of the founding family and current chief executive, will serve as an adviser on the transition. Wells President Liam Killeen will succeed him as CEO, but the rest of the existing leadership team is expected to remain.
Wells Enterprises was founded in 1913 and has grown to be the second-largest ice cream company in the U.S., trailing only Ben & Jerry’s owner Unilever. Wells makes more than 200 million gallons of ice cream annually and has more than 4,000 employees.