Elmer Chocolate undergoing $40 million Ponchatoula plant expansion _lowres

Photo provided by ELMER CHOCOLATE -- Elmer Chocolate said it will spend $40 million to expand its Ponchatoula production facility to make it more efficient, versatile and competitive in the marketplace.

Elmer Chocolate will spend $40 million to expand its Ponchatoula production facility.

The company said Tuesday that the 70,000-square-foot addition will make it more efficient, versatile and competitive. The latest expansion will bring its total plant size in Ponchatoula, which includes administrative headquarters and distribution facilities, to nearly 400,000 square feet.

The expansion will create 10 new jobs at Elmer, which the Louisiana Economic Development Department said will have an average annual salary of $42,500, plus benefits. Elmer has 164 employees in Ponchatoula. The company estimates the expansion will create 130 construction jobs.

No timetable for construction was released.

Founded in 1855 in New Orleans as the Miller Candy Corp., Elmer Chocolate produces a variety of chocolates, caramels, truffles and crèmes, along with seasonal holiday favorites, such as Gold Brick Eggs, Heavenly Hash and Pecan Eggs. Elmer is the second-largest Valentine box chocolate manufacturer in North America, and the company’s Easter candies outsell national manufacturers by a ratio of 4-to-1 along the Gulf Coast.

“Louisiana’s support of this expansion helps our 160-year-old, family-owned company create the core competency to be the most efficient gift chocolate manufacturer in the world,” said Robert Nelson, Elmer CEO. “Our expansion, right here at home, provides a unique U.S. manufacturing model that translates into highly skilled jobs for our associates and ensures the maximum level of quality control and food safety.”

LED began discussing a potential expansion with Elmer in August. To secure the project, the state offered the company an incentive package that includes a performance-based $550,000 Economic Development Award Program forgivable loan to cover equipment purchases, along with LED FastStart workforce training. Elmer also is expected to use Louisiana’s Enterprise Zone program.