Japanese confectioner Morinaga is to open its first Hi-Chew production facility in the US to meet increasing demand. 

Its subsidiary, Morinaga America, will invest US$48m to set up the 20-acre facility in Orange County, North Carolina, which will also produce blending syrup, sugar, flavorings and other ingredients to manufacture the soft candy. 

Production is slated to start in the middle of 2015 and the move will create 90 jobs over a three-year period. 

Hi-Chew, which is produced in Taiwan and exported to the US, has seen an “explosion” in demand over the past few years.

Morinaga America CEO Masao Hoshino said: “It is a testament to the strength of our brand that after a few short years in the United States we were able to move forward with this endeavour.”

Chief operating officer Terry Kawabe added: “With the recent growth of Hi-Chew, beginning production in the United States made sense for us from a logistical standpoint.”

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Morinaga America is to receive a performance-based grant of up to $264,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance. Salaries will vary by job function, but total wages are estimated to be more than $3.4m plus benefits. 

Morinaga last month booked an increase in first-quarter earnings, helped by lower lower advertising expenses and higher sales in the period. Its product portfolio also includes chocolate, cookies and ice cream sandwiches.