Mars Chocolate, the maker of Snickers and M&M’s, is touting efforts to invest in its U.S. operations and add workers, an increasingly popular tactic in an era when President Donald Trump has vowed to protect manufacturing jobs.
Mars, the largest U.S. chocolate seller after Hershey Co., announced plans to create about 250 U.S. jobs by spending $70 million on its domestic supply chain. The move comes after parent company Mars Inc. said last year that it was investing $900 million in its sprawling U.S. operations, which also include packaged food and pet care.
With Trump using his bully pulpit to attack businesses that have transferred jobs overseas, U.S. companies have tried to draw more attention to their domestic investments. A recent pledge from Ford Motor Co. to spend $1.2 billion on three Michigan factories was praised in a tweet from Trump. On the flip side, the president has wiped out billions in market value with tweets criticizing U.S. corporations.
Mondelez International Inc., a Mars rival that makes Oreo cookies and Milka chocolate, ran afoul of Trump during the presidential campaign. As a candidate, he knocked the company for shifting a fraction of its Oreo production to Mexico and vowed to boycott the cookies.
Mars said its U.S. investment stems from a longstanding belief in domestic manufacturing, rather than a desire to earn plaudits from the White House.
“It’s just our way of doing business,” Tracey Massey, president of Mars Chocolate’s North American unit, said in an interview. “We’ve been doing it for years.”
Mars’s U.S. chocolate sales amounted to about $5.1 billion last year, according to data from Euromonitor International.
The company operates 13 factories in the U.S., and about 95% of the chocolate products sold here are produced domestically.
The new investment will make it easier to roll out new items to meet changing consumer tastes, Massey said. That includes increasing production at a Georgia facility that makes Goodness Knows, a snack brand that Mars launched in 2016.
Mars, a closely held company that also makes Starburst and Skittles, is boosting production of M&M’s, its No. 1 product. Sales of the hard-shelled candies increased more than 6% last year in the U.S. -- coming in north of $2 billion, according to Euromonitor. Mars spent $100 million to create a new production line in Kansas to produce caramel M&M’s, a flavor that’s hitting shelves in May.
Producing candy in the U.S. helps Mars retain and attract workers, according to Massey. In addition, millennials are increasingly interested in buying that products are made domestically. She declined to speculate whether the announcement would draw a tweet from Trump.
“We work with many administrations across the world,” she said. “That’s just part of our job.”
By Craig Giammona