11 Things You Didn’t Know About Hershey’s
June 12, 2015
This chocolate company is a household name, but some things about it might surprise you
11 Things You Didn’t Know About Hershey’s
There aren’t many food products that just about every person in America has eaten, but Hershey’s makes plenty of them. Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Twizzlers, Almond Joy… the list goes on and on. But behind the chocolate bar is a huge company and a man named Hershey, and we bet there are some things you didn’t know about them.
Milton Hershey Got His Start Making Caramels, Not Chocolate
Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock
After launching two unsuccessful confectionary businesses in Philadelphia and New York, which lasted six years and three years, respectively, Hershey returned to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and launched the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1886 using a recipe he acquired on his travels. The company was a massive success. He sold it for $1 million in 1900 (the equivalent of more than $28 million today) and focused his attentions on chocolate, stating that “caramels are just a fad, but chocolate is a permanent thing.”
Hershey, Pennsylvania, Was Originally Named Derry Church
“The Sweetest Place on Earth” was purchased by Hershey in 1903, and the following year, a contest was held to find a suitable name for the town. Mrs. T.K. Doyle of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, came up with the winning entry, Hersheykoko, but by the time the town was officially re-christened in 1905, “koko” had gone by the wayside.
The ‘Hershey Process’ Is Still a Trade Secret
Milk chocolate was originally a luxury item because it was so difficult to keep the milk from spoiling before it could be incorporated into the chocolate. Hershey knew that the success of his company was dependent on making milk chocolate available to the masses, so he spent three years perfecting a process for production, which came to be known as the Hershey Process. The exact process is still a tightly guarded secret, but experts agree that the milk goes through a process called lipolysis, which stabilizes it by creating butyric acid. Even though this acid has an incredibly unpleasant smell and taste (it contributes the most pronounced smell in vomit), many other manufacturers now actually add it into their milk chocolate because the American palate is so accustomed to it. Needless to say, the vomit smell is less-pronounced in small concentrations.
Milton Hershey Was Supposed to Be on the Titanic
Milton Hershey and his wife, Kitty, had booked a first-class cabin on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, but they had to cancel their plans at the last minute due to business matters.
There Was a Six-Day Workers’ Strike in 1937
Wikimedia Commons/ Antarctic96
Employee resentment began to build up during the Great Depression, when Hershey reduced employees’ hours and stopped paying annual bonuses while spending more than $10 million on capital improvements. So workers were receptive when union organizers came to town to hold secret meetings, and when pressed, Hershey agreed to raise wages. But after a round of layoffs, anywhere from 400 to 1,200 employees went on strike, with 800,000 pounds of milk going to waste every day. After six days, the strike ended when angry dairy workers and anti-union loyalists stormed the factory, injuring dozens of strikers.
Two years later, the company signed an agreement with the American Federation of Labor that gave employees an increase in overtime rates and paid vacations, and Hershey’s became one of the first American candy companies to unionize. Milton Hershey was devastated by the strike, which to him represented an end to the utopian community he envisioned.
One of the ‘M’s in ‘M&Ms’ Stood for the Name of the Son of Hershey’s President
Hershey had full control of rationed chocolate during World War II, so when Forrest Mars, the son of Mars Candy Company founder Frank Mars, set out to create a chocolate pellet covered in a candy shell, he needed to partner with someone from Hershey. None other than Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey’s president William Murrie, agreed to go into business with Mars, providing Hershey’s chocolate in return for a 20 percent stake in the company, called M&M Limited (after Mars & Murrie). Mars bought out Murrie’s interest in 1948 and became one of Hershey’s main competitors, but the candy’s name stuck.
A School for Orphans Founded by Hershey Is One of the Wealthiest on Earth
Because Hershey was unable to have children, he decided to found the Milton Hershey School in 1909. About $60 million was left to the school after Hershey died, and before his death he made sure that 30 percent of all future Hershey profits would go to the school. Today, the school, which provides free boarding, education, health care, and counseling to 2,000 students from lower-income families, has more than $7 billion in assets.
The Company Owns Some Surprising Brands
Brands owned by the company include Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Breath Savers, Bubble Yum, Good & Plenty, Ice Breakers, Jolly Rancher, Mauna Loa, Scharffen Berger, Rolo, and Krave Jerky, their first non-confection product.
Lancaster Was the First Candy Brand Launched by Hershey’s in 30 Years
In a return to the company’s earliest days, Hershey’s released Lancaster Caramel Soft Crèmes in January 2014 after two and a half years of market research that found that caramels were actually a faster-growing category than chocolate. Lancaster represents the first brand in 30 years that was neither an expansion nor an acquisition of an existing brand.
You Can Submit Ideas for New Products to Hershey’s
The company started accepting ideas for new products, packaging, technology, and other innovative concepts in 2008. If you have an idea, you can submit it here.