The Mars candymaking plant in Waco produces three popular treats, and keeping up with demand has prompted the company to announce a $30 million, 65,000-square-foot expansion.

Mars Wrigley Confectionary U.S. has invested $1 billion in operations across the United States in recent years “to ensure over 95 percent of what we sell in America is made in America,” according to a press release.

Expansion of the facility, which employs more than 600 people, reflects that commitment, Mars’ Waco site director Dan Braswell said after a groundbreaking ceremony.

The space primarily will serve the plant’s distribution needs, but installing production equipment in the future “is always an option,” Braswell said, adding the expansion will create at least 10 new jobs.

Mars in Waco produces Snickers, Skittles and Starburst candies, with Snickers annually placing among the most popular confections in the United States. Fortune magazine reported that Skittles in 2015 became the No. 1 non-chocolate candy in the United States, by market share, and reported it duplicated that fete in 2017.

“The brands produced in Waco have seen fantastic growth,” spokesman Anthony Guerrieri said. “This new investment will help us to bring new varieties of our iconic brands already produced in Waco, while also ensure we continue to modernize our existing production and give even faster service to retailers across the country.”

Guerrieri said he has been particularly impressed with the growing popularity of Starburst.

The Mars plant has become a source of pride, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. She routinely shows the facility to industrial prospects visiting the area, Collins said.

The expansion will increase the size of the plant to almost 750,000 square feet, Braswell said.

Mars in Waco enjoys an excellent reputation in the company system, and that the decision to expand local operations “is a vote of confidence in us, the community and our group of associates,” Braswelll said.

Based in McLean, Virginia, Mars in 2017 enjoyed net sales of more than $33 billion among its six business segments — Petcare, Chocolate, Wrigley, Food, Drinks and Symbioscience. It employs more than 75,000 people worldwide, according to a press release.

Mars has operated in Waco since 1976, and the plant continues to produce more Snickers products for U.S. sale than any other Mars facility.

Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos attended the groundbreaking in Waco, then took to Twitter to congratulate Mars on its expansion.

“Thank you to the Mars Family for its longstanding commitment to Texas! Looking forward to the next 40 years!” Pablos wrote.

In the press release, Pablos said Mars has invested almost $100 million in Texas in the past decade.

“We look forward to supporting Mars in further expanding its Texas operations and collaborating in the company’s strong community engagement now and in the future,” he wrote.

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