Back in July I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the Hershey Headquarters in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Together with a handful of other bloggers I went behind the scenes of America’s chocolate empire. We learned about the company’s founder Milton Hershey, how chocolate becomes a candy bar, and where Hershey is headed in the future.
Oh, and I ate more than my fair share of chocolate, of course.
The legacy of Milton Hershey
On our first evening in Hershey we toured The Hershey Story Museum where we were introduced to the history of Hershey— the man, the town, and the company. Before this trip I had no idea who Milton Hershey was, but I left with deep respect for the man who started it all.
Milton’s whole life and career was dedicated to building up the community around him, and I really could see that same spirit alive and well in The Hershey Company during my brief trip. The school he built for orphans continues to educate underprivileged children today, there’s a non-profit which focuses on cultural and educational enrichment, and the town of Hershey is filled with loyal life-long employees.
The next morning we headed to the Hershey Technical Center and began our day by making our own artisan chocolate bars. I’m not going to lie, this may have been the highlight of the trip (minus the hair net). We were given our choice of milk or dark chocolate and a wide assortment of toppings. I chose to make two bars— milk chocolate/coffee/white chocolate chip and dark chocolate/raspberry/almond. They packaged them up and gave them to us as we left, and I’ve had so much fun sharing them with friends and family.
Learning about Milton Hershey’s living legacy of philanthropy poked holes in my assumption that big corporations equal villainous business practices, and upon hearing that Hershey still uses fresh local milk in their chocolate, those assumptions came crashing down. Fresh local milk, how awesome is that?
In The Chocolate Lab we sampled liquid chocolate (or liquor) from different origins around the world. It was pure bliss— so smooth, rich and full of flavor. I naively thought chocolate was chocolate, so it was fun to realize how different it can be based on its environment. I loved the sweet and caramel flavors of the chocolate from Ghana, but really they all were incredible. I highly recommend The Chocolate Lab if ever you’re in the neighborhood!
After our tour of the Technical Center and the test kitchens (where we sampled the most amazing gluten-free version of Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake) we had the opportunity to sit down with a panel of Hershey executives. We discussed everything from their different brands to product development, and tougher topics like the labor practices of cocoa farmers.
I was surprised and impressed to learn that Hershey has committed to sourcing 100% certified cocoa by 2020, and that they are working together with cocoa-farming communities to develop more productive practices and improve labor standards. You can read more about their sustainability strategy here.
Their Shared Goodness campaign is not only dedicated to better business practices, but to also making a positive impact on the community and helping others, and to simply bring a smile to someone’s face. Isn’t that what chocolate is all about anyway?
All too soon, I left Hershey and headed home (with a suitcase full of goodies). But my chocolate journey doesn’t end there! I’m proud to announce that I’ll be working with Hershey for the next several months as one of their food blogger ambassadors, which means more chocolatey posts for you. So stay tuned!
Disclosure: This blog post and my trip to Hershey, PA were sponsored by The Hershey Company as part of my participation in their Food Ambassador program. All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. Thank you for supporting partnerships with brands I believe in, which make it easier for me to bring you new creative content.