Brand new: Brock Lyons and Jacinta Ray at the Ballarat Mars factory with the pretzel M&Ms. Pictures: contributed

Brand new: Brock Lyons and Jacinta Ray at the Ballarat Mars factory with the pretzel M&Ms. Pictures: contributed

Big investment for a new flavour of M&Ms invented in Victoria

Ballarat Mars factory produces new M&M flavour

Industry
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"We're seeing manufacturing shift and jobs being lost, but we're not doing that."

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Workers at Ballarat's Mars factory will continue to pump out chocolate and provide jobs for locals, with the announcement of a $300,000 expansion.

A new product, pretzel M&Ms, was developed at the Ballarat, Victoria, technical hub, and will go on sale this month - the investment allows this new product to be manufactured here too.

Mars-Wrigley managing director Andrew Leakey said the company intended to stay in Ballarat.

In 2019, it celebrated 40 years in the city, and Mr Leakey said the investment was about setting the company up for another 40.

"We're investing a significant amount over the next 12 months into the site, this is one of the first cabs off the rank," he said.

"Ballarat's always been a regional hub for us when it comes to innovation, the Australian market's led a lot of innovation globally for Mars."

Mars-Wrigley managing director Andrew Leakey speaks in Ballarat.

Mars-Wrigley managing director Andrew Leakey speaks in Ballarat.

Popular products like Pods and various flavoured M&Ms, including the honeycomb-centred crispy variety, were invented in Ballarat.

As well as manufacturing enough Maltesers, M&Ms, and Pods to go around Lake Wendouree 45,000 times in 2019, goods produced at the factory are exported to 17 countries.

"The challenge we gave to our team was to produce (M&Ms Pretzel) locally, what would that look like? The team have met that challenge," he said.

"It's normally a two-year gestation for a new product of this nature, but I have to say, the team has considerably brought that challenge down - we localised within 12 months."

The $300,000 investment has allowed the company to prioritise building capacity at the factory, he added.

"Everything that's happening in the marketplace at the moment with COVID-19 and everything else, we're seeing manufacturing shift and jobs being lost, but we're not doing that, we're really proud that we're not," he said.

"We want to be around for another 40 years, and to do that, we have to make sure our sites are able to move with the technological change, and our skillsets - people are really embracing that element as well.

Will Foskett with the pretzels for the new M&Ms.

Will Foskett with the pretzels for the new M&Ms.

"We've managed to keep both of our factories fully operational, we've managed to supply the supermarkets and our impulse customers throughout this issue, and touch wood, we'll continue to do (that) - we have the same challenges that everyone's having at the moment, about how to make our business sustainable into the future."

So how do these new pretzel-centred M&Ms taste?

"It's the first of its kind with an internal hard centre, it's sweet and salty, a very unusual flavour but one that's becoming quite popular in the marketplace," Mr Leakey said.

"This product is successful in the US, pretzels are a popular product, and we've been looking at it for a while as part of our consumer work - the palate's changed, it's this unique sweet and salty mix with a crunchy centre, wrapped in a beautiful set of M&Ms in the usual colours."

Keep an eye out for the new M&Ms in supermarkets this month.

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