I know I’m not alone when I say that my professional and personal lives have become increasingly intertwined since March, when I began working from home. But I do have a somewhat unique story in the ways that they’ve become intertwined. It revolves around the s’more.
As director of US customer supply chain for Hershey, I’ve seen some incredible things happen since COVID-19 began. In the shadow of uncertainty and rapid change, I believe there is a silver lining in the ways that families have come together during quarantine to savor the simple things in life. Gathering around s’mores has been one backyard activity that consumers continue to cherish. Since the pandemic began, we have seen sales of our Hershey's bar six-packs—one of the must-have items in the perfect s’more—skyrocket 40 percent. Families have found comfort around fireplaces, fire pits and grills, and taken joy in this nostalgic, DIY dessert.
My own backyard has been filled, continually, with messy fingers and chocolate mustaches as my four kids—ages 10 months to 10 years—make s’mores for one another and for my in-laws, who live with us. On weekends, debates rage over whether the marshmallow should be burnt or lightly toasted; whether we offer a menu of choices from the Hershey’s bar, Rolos or Reese's Thins. These moments and the associated debates have been made possible by the tremendous work of our manufacturing and retail teams who have continued to prioritize making moments of goodness for our consumers throughout the pandemic.
As stay-at-home orders have eased, my family has started slowly growing our circle, welcoming friends and neighbors over for a socially distanced s’mores feast. I’ll set up an assembly line of ingredients while the kids take orders and roast marshmallows. Through it all, s’mores have come to symbolize something more than a sweet treat. They represent an occasion; an event; gratitude for family, friends and health; relief in coming together again. Life has changed so much around us, and yet, on these s’more nights, we were—and are—able to make moments of goodness that I, for one, will never forget.
S’mores sales usually peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but this year has been one for the books. With travel on hold, backyard fire pits have become the latest destination. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that families across the country are transforming their backyards for relaxation and recreation at record levels. In fact, in states that are still experiencing lock downs, sales for s’mores products are four times higher than in other states. And from late April until the Fourth of July holiday, consumers were buying more than we had anticipated. At our West Hershey plant, our teams have been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to churn out more chocolate. Thanks to our excellent, always-on communication between our sales team, category managers and supply chain, we were able to make week-to-week decisions about where Hershey's bars were most needed to ensure the best possible access for s'mores makers.
Working with our third-party partners, we were also synchronizing with other manufacturers so that pallets of cross-merchandised s’mores products—Honey Maid graham crackers, Jet Puff marshmallows and six-packs of Hershey's bars—were going out to stores, making it easy for people to quickly grab their s’mores ingredients in one spot and go.
At the store level, our retail teams have been on store floors ensuring our retail partners get what they need for their communities. If six packs of Hershey’s bars were unavailable, they’d stock extra-large Hershey's bars in s’mores displays; if graham crackers were sold out, they’d fill shelves with ice cream cones for an innovative alternative. During this pandemic, we’ve all learned that necessity breeds innovation—and the results can be delicious.
We talk a lot about purpose at Hershey. Our company was founded, after all, by Milton Hershey, a man who knew that a quality product was its own best advertising. He built a school for orphans and he built a town for his employees. For more than 125 years, we’ve been following in his footsteps knowing to do well, we must do good.
These days, small things make a big difference. I find it humbling that people turned to s’mores for a feeling of comfort and connection. In some ways, this was our opportunity to carry Milton Hershey’s torch and carry out the company’s purpose to deliver moments of goodness when and where they’re needed most. To ensure that we can keep doing that, we’ve committed to making even more chocolate in the fourth quarter this year, and stock up for next season.
Years from now, when I look back at 2020, I will always be proud that in dark times, a fire, graham crackers, marshmallows, Hershey’s bars, friends and family could bring some light. That’s certainly been the case in my family.