At some point after 1907, the phrase “Can I have a kiss?” acquired a second meaning. Not only could the phrase refer to physical affection, but eventually it also came to refer to the acquisition of a different sort of pleasure: a Hershey’s chocolate convection. The Hershey’s Kiss, first introduced to the American market — allegedly named for the sound “of the chocolate being deposited during manufacturing,” – took chocolate consumers by storm.[i] The Kiss’ popularization marked an important moment both in the story of chocolate industrialization, and also in the accessibility of chocolate to all people.
Once the formula for Hershey’s special brand of chocolate, with its sour, sweet taste, had been finalized, Hershey could start experimenting with the shape and marketing of that chocolate. Thus, the Kiss, with its conical shape, was invented. It was unique insomuch as it became a candy that consumers could eat and “carry…around with them without the chocolate melting all over their hands.”[ii] They could buy small quantities of kisses, and save them for later. The consumer didn’t have to worry about the chocolate melting or having to indulge in it right away. Instead chocolate was accessible, easy to eat at any time, and conveniently wrapped in foil. This stood in stark contrast with other chocolate bars around the time, and also in contrast with the popular Wilbur Buds, which came in a package that failed to separate the individual buds, and instead offered the candy all together.[iii] The Kiss was convenient and accessible, something that boosted its sales and made it a household name.
To reiterate, the Hershey’s Kiss became incredibly popular, and found “immediate favor with the public.”[iv] The candies were marketed supremely well, creating and then filling a niche. Even their very name was popular, and as sweet as the candy it represented. By 1910, Kisses “would help propel sales over the $2 million mark,” along with the enormous success of chocolate almond bars.[v] The success of both the chocolate bars and Kisses caused Hershey to adopt a different business strategy, one that would also have lasting effect on chocolate’s status as a luxury good. Hershey began to produce “huge quantities of a few varieties,” essentially starting a system of chocolate mass-production in the United States.[vi] The effect was to lower the price of Hershey’s chocolate across the board, allowing a huge cross section of retailers to offer Hershey products in their stores. Kisses and Hershey’s chocolate bars, thus, became an affordable, common good, found almost anywhere and enjoyed by a wide cross section of the American public. Gone were the days of chocolate belonging only the to the wealthy, or only to those who could afford to buy it. Now, chocolate, like bread, was just a food product enjoyed by many.
Today Kisses are still wildly popular. In 2014, Hershey’s produced nearly 750,000,000 individual Kisses for Valentines Day alone. They were the second most popular “packaged candy product” for the holiday.[vii] Regardless of their continued success, however, Kisses were important simply because they helped make chocolate even more accessible, and destroy any status boundaries surrounding the good.
Image 1: http://personalsuccesstoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/hershey-kiss.jpg
Image 2: http://www.wilburbuds.com/Products/Wilbur-Buds/5-5mkbuds.html
Image 3: http://momitforward.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Hersheys-Kisses-Giveaway-Post-Image.jpg
[i] “Our Story.” Hersheys.com. The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://www.hersheys.com/kisses/experience/our-story.aspx>.
[ii] Janik, Rachel. “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.” Time. Time, 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://time.com/3707086/hershey-kiss-history-valentines>
[iv] Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 . The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 252
[v] D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams, 121
[vii] Rachel Janik, “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.”
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013 . The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 252
D’Antonio, Michael D. 2006. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams
Janik, Rachel. “How the Hershey’s Kiss Conquered Valentine’s Day.” Time. Time, 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. http://time.com/3707086/hershey-kiss-history-valentines
“Our Story.” Hersheys.com. The Hershey Company, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. http://www.hersheys.com/kisses/experience/our-story.aspx