The Hershey Company: From Trials to Triumph

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC
Photo by Shutterstock

Halloween and candy go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly. Whether you’re giving out candy or have a kid trick-or-treating, you can’t escape the ubiquity of the Hershey Company products.

Here is a quick quizlet for you to ponder?

  1. How many Hershey brands are there?
  2. What share of the U.S. chocolate market does Hershey have?
  3. Who is Hershey’s largest customer?

Hershey is one American success story we take for granted. How much do you know about chocolatier Milton Hershey and his chocolate empire? Here’s a look at what business builders can learn from his legacy:

Know when to pivot (be smart).

Milton Hershey wasn’t a success from the outset. He started in the caramel business! And after a series of what proved to be wrong moves, he ended up defaulting on a $10,000 loan. Ouch! Hershey was able to recover and start what we now know as the Hershey Company.

To what did he attribute his success? He had the foresight to recognize an opportunity: “Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing,” he said. Sometimes failure has a sweet and creamy silver lining.

Never sacrifice quality.

Hershey set out to make his product accessible — something working-class people could easily afford as a treat now and then. He was so committed to this philosophy he found ways to source ingredients affordably and cut costs without cutting corners or the quality of the products, allowing him to keep his product at an affordable price point. “Give them quality,” he said. “That’s the best kind of advertising.”

Don’t play it small or small.

It’s natural to have doubts, but you have to take a leap of faith, or else you won’t grow. Hershey is quoted as saying, “If you want to make money, you have to do things in a BIG way. “I think it’s safe to say he/they did. With more than $7.8 billion in global sales a year, The Hershey Company is the leading manufacturer of chocolates in the United States.

The Hershey story is proof that sometimes failure, false starts, and pivots have a sweet ending. Happy Halloween, and in case you are interested the answers to the quizlet are: (1) 80; (2) 43.5% and (3) Walmart.



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