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Snacks Retail Expertise

Driving Growth: How Hershey Uses Data to Prepare Retail Partners for the Future

The Hershey Company’s David Nolen, VP National Category Management, and Erica Norton, Sr Director of Consumer Insights, reflect on their presentation at the Numeration ’22 conference and how Hershey leverages data to understand consumer sentiment and behaviors to drive business growth.
David Nolen & Erica Norton

Key Takeaways:

    • We were invited to Numeration ’22 to speak on the main stage about how Hershey leverages macroeconomic data to understand consumer sentiment and behaviors.
    • By translating insights into recommendations for our retail partners as well as internal marketing teams and leadership, we all grow together.
    • We believe that we are at our best when we put the shopper at the center of our retail strategy.

At Hershey, we’re not just dedicated to producing the best possible products. We also work tirelessly to understand consumers and their behavior to find new opportunities to be a part of their busy lives, and to help our retail partner customers do so, as well. In October, we were honored to speak about our methods at Numeration ’22, a conference hosted by Numerator, a consumer data and insights company. There, in between other main-stage presentations from leaders at McKinsey & Company, RBC Capital Markets, Unilever and Post, we talked about some of the tools, data and analytics we use when working closely with our retail partners across the entire customer journey.

Our main focus at the conference revolved around understanding consumer behavior in inflationary times and in the face of a looming recession. And while those are timely topics, they were also a vehicle to get to the heart of what underlies the implication of all of our insights: the “so what?” and the “now what?” We talked about how, by studying behavior from several different data streams, our team can ascertain trends and opportunities. We communicate those insights to our retail partners, along with solutions and recommendations to drive incremental transactions.

Looking back at the last couple of years, these insights are why, in the early days of the pandemic, we were talking with our retail partners about consumer trends like home cocooning and evolving digital shopping behavior. And how, in a post-vaccinated world, we looked into why some of those trends lingered—with sweet treats offering occasions to break up routines and inspire smiles in stressful times. Consumer insights also inform our approach to new snacking occasions, whether it’s leaning into better-for-you snacks (we relaunched our Zero Sugar line), innovating on classics (like adding potato chips or Reese’s Puffs to Reese’s Big Cup) or designing new pack types (like Pantry Packs) to fit modern trends and snacking habits.

The reason we always lead with consumer insights is this: Hershey is at its best when we put the shopper at the center of our retail strategies. We want to be known in the market as trusted experts who understand what’s happening with consumers and we want to share that information with our retail partners to drive growth in the category—so that they, too, can be their best.

That’s why we try to meet with our retail partners every chance we get. In addition to connecting with them in their own offices, we also have three innovation centers, which include the Global Customer Insights Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania; the Mobile Customer Insights Center, a tractor-trailer that travels across the country to meet with retailers of all sizes; and the Hershey Insights Network, which brings customers to the Global Customer Insights Center virtually.

Beyond those critical connection points, we are always grateful for opportunities to share our insights and expertise with new audiences at events like Numeration ’22. It was energizing and inspiring to meet and learn from other leaders across the country, and to spread the word about how The Hershey Company strives to be an indispensable consultative partner with retailers.