Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Celebrating 125 Years of Hershey—and Countless Moments of Goodness

Leigh Horner
  • Milton Hershey founded The Hershey Company with the purpose of making quality chocolate affordable to millions and making moments of goodness in people’s lives.
  • On Hershey’s 125th birthday, the business is still driven by its purpose to make more moments of goodness through a wide variety of beloved snacking brands.

This year, we’re celebrating a major milestone with our 125th birthday. That celebration has given us a chance to reflect on our purpose: making more moments of goodness. Since our founding in 1894, The Hershey Company has been a part of millions of those moments as they've played out in countless lives. While times have changed, our purpose remains the same, and will for the next 125 years and beyond.

The humble beginnings

That purpose began with our founder, Milton Hershey, a candy man who owned the Lancaster Caramel Company. In the early 1890s, he became interested in chocolate and traveled to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, where he purchased his first pieces of chocolate-making equipment. At the time, chocolate was expensive to make, and only wealthy people could afford it. Milton was a man of the people, however, and wanted everyone to be able to experience the pleasure of chocolate. He set about making a recipe based on simple ingredients. In 1894, the Hershey's brand was born, and its chocolate bars would go on to sell for a just nickel. It became the American symbol for quality milk chocolate. But the real returns that Milton relished were the cherished relationships with business partners, and the smiles made by his special treat. He loved being a part of those moments of goodness.

Milton didn’t just create an innovative product. He built an innovative company, transforming a quiet farm field in Pennsylvania into a bustling company town. Determined to give his workers a good quality of life, Hershey built houses, schools, a trolley system and even a zoo. Hersheypark was designed as a place for employees and their families for recreation. And Milton Hershey School was founded in 1909 to educate orphan boys, who were at risk of being left behind. When Milton died, he left his entire legacy to a trust that would ensure the future of the school.

Building an innovative snacking powerhouse

Hershey’s founder left behind some big shoes to fill, and we are continually reflecting on our history as we plan the business’ future, both through innovation and purpose. Under the leadership of CEO Michele Buck, we’re still working to make those moments of goodness, just as Milton taught us. We understand that a diverse workforce makes a company stronger, and we’re committed to hiring diverse talent at every level of the organization. While Milton focused on making an impact in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the business today has a much more global focus around corporate social responsibility. In 2018, 80 percent of our cocoa came from sustainable sources and we’re committed to increasing that to 100 percent by 2020. Through our Cocoa for Good initiative, we’re working within the communities that produce our raw ingredients to help them overcome social and environmental challenges and become more sustainable and resilient. And in our own backyard, the Milton Hershey School continues to offer residential, cost-free education to 2,100 students in pre-k through 12th grade.

And then there are the brands. Hershey has grown beyond chocolate to become an innovative snacking powerhouse, offering sweet and savory items for every occasion, like Ice Breakers Gum and Mints, Twizzlers, SkinnyPop, Pirate’s Booty and more. When it comes to chocolate, we embrace our iconic brands while continually introducing new products to be invited into people's moments of goodness. 

We don’t just talk the talk when it comes to making moments. In 2019, we started “S’mores Saturday” to encourage neighborhoods to step outside and roast marshmallows and melt chocolate together. We showed up in New Orleans with a giant wooden crate of s’mores fixings and threw a block party where neighbors met neighbors for the first time, reminding us, again, of the power of Hershey to bring people together. 

Through it all, our retail partners have been along for the ride. Most of them grew up with us, so they already know that Hershey is  more than chocolate. Those retail partners tell us that their customers are looking to buy from businesses they believe in, and, in fact, 64 percent of shoppers identify as “belief-driven” buyers, according to a study by Edelman. Purpose-driven businesses are resonating with customers, and when that happens, everybody wins—Hershey, the retailers and our consumers.

Looking ahead

A lot has changed over the last 125 years, and a lot has stayed the same. That hunch Milton had to offer a delicious and affordable treat to make moments a little more special continues to ring true today. We have no way of knowing what moments of goodness lie ahead, but we do know this: we’re grateful to be a part of them, from our manufacturing facilities to the shelves of your store and into the carts—and hearts—of people everywhere.