The Hershey Company: Development and Impact on Chocolate Consumption

Milton S. Hershey, a successful caramel maker, became fascinated with chocolate after seeing its production at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (The Hershey Company). Hershey bought chocolate making machinery, and began producing chocolate as a coating for his caramels (The Hershey Company). Because of its success with chocolate, the Hershey company grew, eventually becoming wildly successful. Interestingly, the development of the Hershey company parallels and contributed too the growth in popularity of chocolate as a source of energy, the spread of chocolate from the elite to the masses, and subsequently, a decrease in quality of the chocolate consumed.

Milton S. Hershey Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/Milton_S._Hershey,_1910.jpg

As the chocolate side of his company became very successful, Hershey became aware of the growing market for chocolate, and decided to make his own chocolate company, the Hershey Chocolate Company (The Hershey Company). Hershey began to manufacture other products such as Hershey’s Cocoa and Hershey’s Syrup (The Hershey Company). Just like other chocolate manufactures, Hershey used marketing techniques promoting the health of chocolate; he marketed chocolate cigarettes to women as an alternative to tobacco, and marketed chocolate as a source of energy to athletes (The Hershey Company). In society, chocolate had become to be seen as a food full of energy, promoting healthiness and happiness. Hershey paralleled this trend with his marketing techniques, calling chocolate “a palatable confection and a most nourishing food” (The Hershey Company).

Example of how the Hershey Company advertised chocolate as a “health” food full of energy Source: http://hershey1234.weebly.com/uploads/3/3/5/3/3353496/6469747.jpg

Not only did Hershey contribute to the change in marketing of chocolate, but he also introduced milk chocolate as an affordable treat for anyone (The Hershey Company). Up until this time, the Swiss had kept secret a recipe for milk chocolate (The Hershey Company). Hershey knew that milk chocolate would be a profitable item, and wanted to find a recipe for milk chocolate that not only was high quality, but was also quick and cheap to manufacture (The Hershey Company). Hershey spent years perfecting a recipe, and finally found one that allowed him to mass-produce and distribute milk chocolate (The Hershey Company). Not only did he perfect a recipe, but also he introduced heavy machinery into the chocolate making process. Hershey was characterized as “the Henry Ford of Chocolate Makers,” as he had as similar vision of a mass production process as Ford that would make his chocolate industry boom (Coe and Coe, 1996). Hershey made a true assembly-line operation, with machines and conveyor belts dominating the process (Coe and Coe, 1996). Hershey was therefore able to lower the cost of producing chocolate, and make it more affordable to everyday people. Chocolate had been trickling down from the elite to the common people, and Hershey’s innovative recipe and mass production process heavily contributed to the shift of chocolate to everyone. The Hershey Company boasts that because of Hersey, “what had once been a luxury for the rich was to become an enjoyment that anyone could afford – the Hershey bar.” Though the Hershey Company was making great strides towards making chocolate affordable and accessible to all, they arguably sacrificed quality of chocolate along the way.

This video shows the development of the Hershey’s Chocolate Company, and also many of the machines used to mass-produce chocolate. At 22:50, a machine that portions out the Hershey’s Kisses can be seen. In 1921, a machine was built to wrap Hershey’s Kisses, which added the signature “plume” at the top (Coe and Coe, 1996). With Hershey’s machines, 25 million Kisses were produced a day (Coe and Coe, 1996).

Because Hershey mass produced such vast amounts of chocolate, it is inevitable that the quality of the chocolate would be sacrificed in the process. While the masses could now enjoy the formerly elite chocolate, some believed that “there was something missing in his ‘good old Hershey bar.'” (Coe and Coe, 1996, p. 257). While mass producers of chocolate were under strict guidelines to not include harmful substances in the chocolate, many were skimping on cocoa butter. Many believe that it is the cocoa butter that gives chocolate its delicious taste and texture, and that cocoa butter is necessary for a high quality chocolate (Coe and Coe, 1996). The Hershey Company choose to give up quality for quantity of chocolate, allowing chocolate to be accessed by all, but also sacrificing the texture and taste that the elite previously enjoyed. Because this lower quality chocolate is all that most people could afford, the Hershey Company arguably shaped most people’s taste in chocolate to desire this lower quality chocolate. Because no higher quality chocolate manufacturer could compete with the vast quantity and cheap prices that the Hershey Company could produce, higher quality chocolate was pushed into the background.

Today the Hershey Company is enormous, leading North America in the manufacture of chocolate and even non-chocolate confectionary (The Hershey Company). The early development and marketing shown by Hershey parallels the general trends in chocolate at the time. When Hershey created his new milk chocolate recipe and mass-production techniques, he provided the general public with an affordable source of chocolate, greatly contributing to the shift of chocolate consumption from the elite to the masses. Furthermore, in this shift, the Hershey Company sacrificed the quality of their chocolate in favor of quality and a cheaper cost, perhaps contributing to the tastes of much of society for cheaper chocolate of less cocoa content.

Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

The Hershey Company. “The Hershey Company: Our Story, Our History, Our Chocolate.” Accessed March 8, 2015. <http://www.thehersheycompany.com/about-hershey/our-story/hersheys-history.aspx&gt;

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