KENYA – Mars Wrigley Confectionary, Unites States based confectionary maker, has inaugurated a new US$70 million (Sh7bn) plant in Athi River, Kenya as it seeks to diversify its local confectionery product portfolio.

Speaking during the inauguration ceremony, Duncan McCulloch, Mars Wrigley Confectionary General Manager for the Middle East and Africa said the new factory would enable the firm to expand its product range an explore new markets.

With the new plant, Wrigley is set to diversify from chocolates and introduce products like Skittles as well as expand its market reach into Egypt and Nigeria.

“We have a strong chewing gum portfolio in Kenya but we have less of fruit confectionary like skittles. With this plant we have ambitions to grow it and start packaging them (skittles) locally by end of the year.

“With the rapidly expanding middle class and youthful population, we see our products becoming more and more integrated into people’s lifestyles,” said Mr McCulloch.

The new facility which sits on about 80,900 square metre piece of land will offer over 200 employment opportunities as part of growing Mars Wrigley Confectionery following the integration with Mars Chocolate and Wrigley in 2008.

Mr. McCulloch also noted that the new facility will help the firm entrepreneur accelerator program dubbed ‘maua’ designed to empower individual entrepreneurs as well as create large networks of micro-entrepreneurs and micro-distributors. 

“Increased capacity and efficiencies made possible by this new facility will contribute significantly to the scaling up of our already existing entrepreneurship program.

So far, over 1,000 youth and women from across the country have benefited from the program we call maua. With the support from government and other partners, we hope to increase the number to 5,000 in the next two years.” Added McCulloch.

Wrigley has been running its operation in Kenya Since 1972 through its plant in Nairobi to serve regional markets including Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Djibouti, DR Congo and South Africa.

Wrigley’s products from the Nairobi based plant include Big G, PK, Double-mint, Orbit and Juicy Fruit brands.

However, the firm is yet to disclose whether its chocolate brands including Twix, Bounty, Dove, Snickers, Mars, Maltesers and M&M would also be packaged locally, reports Business Daily.