I am thrilled to congratulate our CEO Michele Buck and our remarkable employees on being the recipients of the Corporate Citizenship Award from the Committee for Economic Development. This award is a tangible example of what a purpose-driven business can do.
Hershey has always been about more than chocolate. We’re a company founded on a purpose. Milton Hershey believed that if you do good, you will do well. This spirit shapes nearly every decision Hershey makes, setting us apart as a company that is committed to the significant difference we can make.
We are proud of the business we have built and how we’ve continued to grow as a fierce competitor in the snacking industry while being true to that spirit. Our top five brands account for 25% of all U.S. candy, mint and gum sales. Last year, growth within these five brands accounted for around 40% of total growth in this category. Our success and growth directly result in value that supports our citizenship efforts and helps us do good.
With every business interaction, Hershey employees are our greatest ambassadors and trust brokers. Our Shared Goodness Promise is a social currency that runs across all of our relationships, focused on our commitment to our planet, community, business and future.
The focus on the future, our children, is something we are particularly proud of. We are excited about the recent launch of The Heartwarming Project. This program honors our founder’s greatest heartwarming act – building the Milton Hershey School to help underprivileged children succeed. It enables us to put our unique value into practice—the power to create social connections and melt the distance between people. We are partnering with leading organizations like We.org and the Boys and Girls Club of America to create programs and give grants that will help create a future where social and emotional connections are central in our everyday world. The goal may be ambitious, but then again so was making an affordable chocolate bar 125 years ago.
The key to our business success? The diversity and passion of our people. We are committed to bringing diverse talent together and including people of all abilities, ethnicities, generations, and sexual identities. This commitment is ingrained into every aspect of our organization. We are proud to have women leaders across the company including 50% gender representation on our executive committee, led by our amazing CEO Michele Buck.
I am honored to be part of a company with a purpose-driven legacy and excited about our future business ambition under the leadership of Michele. A special thanks to all our employees—at every level—who continue to live our purpose and make it a reality.