Financial terms were not disclosed by either privately-owned business.
Italy-based Ferrero is one of the world’s largest chocolate makers and already has ice-cream interests in Europe.
Executive chairman Giovanni Ferrero said: “This represents a win-win partnership, bringing together ice-cream experts and confectionery champions. Together, we have the power of one and are well placed to grow and compete in the ice-cream market.”
Wells Enterprises manufactures and sells ice cream under brands including Blue Bunny, Bomb Pop and Halo Top. The family-owned group bought Halo Top three years ago after the US brand shook up the category on both sides of the Atlantic with its low-calorie fare.
In a joint statement, the companies said Wells Enterprises will “remain a stand-alone business” after the sale to Ferrero, with offices in Le Mars in Iowa. The group will retain production operations in Le Mars, as well as in Henderson in Nevada and in Dunkirk in New York state.
CEO Mike Wells will serve as “an adviser to support the transition”. Liam Killeen, Wells Enterprises’ president, will become CEO when the deal closes.
Killeen said: “This is an exciting day that accelerates growth and ensures a bright future for our company and everyone associated with it.”
Mr. Wells added: “We are a 100-year-old company focused on adapting for the next 100 years,” said Mike Wells. “Ferrero is a like-minded company with a commitment to providing high-quality, premium sweet-packaged food products that bring joy to consumers around the world. This acquisition puts the business in the best possible hands.”
The sale is expected to be finalised in “early 2023”, the statement added.
Two years earlier, the Ferrero Rocher brand owner announced a tie-up with Unilever that saw the world’s largest ice-cream maker manufacture a range of Kinder-branded products for markets in Europe.
Ferrero’s presence in the US has been built organically and via a series of acquisitions, notably the 2017 deal for local confectioner Fannie May, the 2018 move for Nestlé’s US confectionery business and the 2019 purchase of Kellogg’s cookies and fruit snacks assets.
In 2017, Ferrero also acquired US firm Ferrara Candy Co. via an affiliated company.