From Illinois Investment Guide 2023

Illinois Hits the Spot

Leading U.S. food brands continue to select the state for business reach and growth.

Agribusiness and Food Processing
The Kraft Heinz Company is investing more than $400 million in DeKalb, Illinois.
Photo courtesy of The Kraft Heinz Company

by Alexis Elmore

hen it comes to grub, Illinois knows what flavorful combinations will stand the test of time. Every state has its claim to a national culinary favorite, though many of America’s most popular meals and snacks come from the Land of Lincoln. 

The classic deep-dish pizza, brownies, Cracker Jack popcorn, Twinkies, and Italian beef sandwiches were all created in Illinois. It’s safe to say the Prairie State knows what hits the spot.

This legacy in food invention has not only satisfied the country’s cravings but provided a pull for a plethora of iconic food and beverage companies.

Snacking in Illinois

The Kraft Heinz Company announced a delicious $400 million investment an hour west of Chicago in DeKalb, Illinois. The investment supports the company’s plans to construct one of North America’s largest automated consumer packaged goods distribution centers.

“DeKalb was chosen as the site for Kraft Heinz’s newest distribution center due to its prime location off a major roadway, direct access to the national railway system with Union Pacific, the strong local labor market, and the property tax abatement and incentive package in partnership with the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation,” says Kraft Heinz Global Communications Manager Allison Naval.

The prime location of the planned 775,000-sq.-ft. facility, paired with integration of automated technology, will allow for Kraft Heinz to enhance supply chain capabilities and ensure product deliverability to be faster than ever. The warehouse will handle distribution of 60% of the company’s foodservice business and about 30% of its dry goods.

“Featuring a fully automated storage retrieval system with the ability to run 24/7, the new distribution center will allow us to drive two and a half more volume for customers,” says Naval. “We have partnered with Daifuku Wynright, a global leader integrated material handling systems to build the end-to-end automation technology, including our Warehouse Control System and a 29-crane Automated Storage and Retrieval System. Robotic technology will enable fully automated selection of Kraft Heinz products.”

Agribus & Food Procsg AP-1

Ferrero will begin producing Kinder Bueno chocolate bars for the first time in North America.

Photo courtesy of Ferrero Rocher USA

This facility investment is just one example of how the company plans to transform its traditional logistics operations moving forward. Automated technology plays a vital role in streamlining this process for years to come, while aiding the company in reducing its environmental footprint in the state. Construction on the project will begin soon, as the company anticipates it to be fully operational by 2025, creating 150 new jobs at the site.

“We are very excited that Kraft Heinz will bring its worldwide reputation for quality products and services to our community,” said DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes. “The construction and post-construction employment opportunities they bring will have a positive and lasting impact on our residents, and this positive impact is compounded by the additional diversification of our tax base, which will spur further interest in DeKalb for many years to come.”

Sweeter in Bloomington

While looking to select its first North American site to produce its beloved Kinder Bueno products, Ferrero knew Bloomington, Illinois, would fit the taste of a $214.4 million investment.

As of now, the company is in the midst of expanding its existing Bloomington site by an additional 169,000 sq. ft. to support production of the premium chocolate bar, creating more than 200 new jobs in the process. 

“This investment will fuel our momentum in North America, a strategic growth area for Ferrero. Enhancing our manufacturing capabilities in the market is key to driving our innovation agenda and advancing Ferrero’s goal of becoming a world leader in snacks and confectionery,” said President and Chief Business Officer of Ferrero North America Alanna Cotton. “We’re grateful for the strong partnerships we have with state and local leaders here, and proud that our expansion is part of Bloomington’s amazing success story.”

Ferrero established the state’s first chocolate processing facility when it acquired its Bloomington site in 2018. The slated 2024 completion of the expansion project for Kinder Bueno production will succeed an additional expansion focused on production of Ferrero’s Crunch, 100 Grand and Raisinets items, among other products in 2023. 

Agribus & Food Procsg AP-2

Raspberry plants at Tanglefoot Ranch in Simpson, Illinois. 

Photo courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism

Its expansion is supported by an Economic Development for a Growing Economy tax credit, which requires a goal of investing $103 million while creating 75 jobs over the next two years. The company will additionally open its new Innovation Center in Chicago in 2023. The Center will focus on R&D for its cookies, cones and crusts brand teams.

Tender Support

When it comes to agribusiness and food production, Illinois proves there is room for everyone.

Together, Governor JB Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced a new capital grant program focused on strengthening the state’s meat and poultry supply chain, boosting independently owned meat processing companies.

The $6 million Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Capital Grant Program aims to help these companies increase production capacity and retain jobs in the process. 

“The idea for this program arose in 2022 when inflation for food in particular was rising sharply. This was caused in part by a lack of sufficient competitive pressure due to a concentration of meat processing capacity in a small number of very large meat processing companies,” says DCEO Policy and Program Development Manager John O’Conner. “In addition, small and medium sized meat processers were among the hardest hit in the early days of the pandemic due to workforce impacts, so they were caught scrambling when demand spiked in 2021 and 2022.”

The program is unique in that it specifically caters to independent meat processors instead of industry leaders such as Tyson, which has several locations throughout the state.

The grant allows for awards ranging from $25,000 to $1,500,000 to at least five to 10 companies over a duration of two years. Grants will receive a company match of at least four times the amount awarded. Funding can be used to construct a new production facility, modernize or expand an existing site or to upgrade manufacturing equipment.

For DCEO, this provides economic development opportunity for rural Illinois. Especially in the western region of the state, though the program is not limited to businesses in those areas. From March 2020 to August 2022 the consumer price index for meat increased by 23%, beef and veal saw a 22.9% increase, while pork saw a 24.6% hike, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“The Meat and Poultry Supply Chain program is a first-of-its-kind DCEO program specifically targeting meat processing operations.”

— John O’Conner, DCEO Policy and Program Development Manager

“DCEO saw an opportunity to incentivize the addition of meat and poultry processing capacity among small and medium-sized operators, sustain Illinois’ competitiveness and status as a key national hub in this important sector and perhaps lead to lower grocery bills at the same time,” says O’Conner.

“The Meat and Poultry Supply Chain program is a first-of-its-kind DCEO program specifically targeting meat processing operations,” says O’Conner. “We see the program as an opportunity to incentivize meaningful investment in meat processing capacity in Illinois and reduce our dependence on just a few very large industry operators.” 

Alexis Elmore
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Alexis Elmore

Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.


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