Purpose, Strategy & Culture

Living the Legacy of Milton S. Hershey

September 13, 2021 would have been Milton S. Hershey's 164th birthday. Today, Hershey employees around the world live his legacy of doing well by doing good.
The Hershey Company

Key Takeaways:

  • On September 13, Milton S. Hershey would have celebrated his 164th birthday.
  • In honor of that day, we’re reflecting on the company’s purpose which remains as true now as it was when the business began in 1894.
  • By investing in employee safety, innovation and a reliable supply chain we’re building on that legacy by helping people make more moments of goodness, even amid challenging times.

Purpose has become a trendy word in corporate boardrooms in recent years. But the notion was novel when The Hershey Company was founded in 1894 and Milton S. Hershey coined the term “commerce with compassion.” Milton knew that if he wanted to be successful, he needed to first take care of his employees and his community. In other words, he wanted to do well by doing good.

Back then, at a time when only wealthy people could afford chocolate, Milton sought to make more moments of goodness by selling Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars for just a nickel. To create the chocolate bars, he transformed a sleepy field in Pennsylvania into a bustling company town, complete with houses, schools, a trolley system and a zoo, so that workers could enjoy time with their families. In 1909, Milton and his wife, Kitty, used their fortune to build the Milton Hershey School to educate orphaned boys. Before Milton died, he left his legacy to a trust, so that the school would continue in perpetuity.

In the year 2021, so much has changed and yet, so much remains the same. Amid a global pandemic, purpose has grounded and guided us. By building strong teams through diversity and inclusion, focusing on our employee’s health and well-being, and striving to make more moments of goodness through our products and our philanthropy, we’ve come through these tough times even stronger.

Today, in honor of our founder’s birthday, we’re reflecting on how we continue to do well by doing good. Here are three ways we’re continuing to stay true to our legacy and our purpose.

We’re taking care of people

As it has throughout its history, we continue to put our employees first. As COVID-19 spread around the country and world in 2020 and 2021—and as we worked tirelessly to keep shelves stocked—employee health and safety was a top concern. For our frontline workers, we enhanced our safety measures and offered appreciation pay and incentives. And for those who could carry out their work remotely, we enacted a work-from-home policy. As stress and pressure mounted on individuals and families, we provided additional benefits—including flexible time, a childcare and transportation assistance app and an education platform for children—to help working parents.

We also sought to help the community around us, as our founder would have done. When personal protective equipment was difficult to find, we used our facilities and committed more than $1 million to manufacture face masks for employees and their families, community nonprofits, health care organizations and school districts in the region. We also worked with our partners around the world—in Ghana, Belize and Mexico—to educate cocoa and sugar farmers on safety and prevention practices to help keep them healthy. More recently, we worked with local medical authorities to organize vaccine distribution for our employees, in order to keep them safe.

We’re giving consumers quality products—and choices

Just as Milton set out to create more moments of goodness in the late 19th century, we continue that mission today. As consumers’ needs and wants change, we’re expanding our snacking options to help them find the snacks that fit new occasions and their lifestyles, by expanding our “better-for-you” offerings.

In addition we’ve innovated around our core brands that people love. We’ve introduced new THiNS to include Reese’s, York and Kit Kat; we launched an organic line of products, including Organic Hershey’s, Hershey’s Dark, Reese’s and Reese’s Dark; and we’ve extended our brands into Zero Sugar offerings, so consumers can enjoy Reese’s, Hershey’s, York and other favorites, minus the sugar.

We’re also excited about some other recent snacking innovations. Reese’s lovers have embraced the launch of Reese’s Snack Cakes (soft-baked chocolate cake topped with Reese’s peanut butter) and Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels. And Kit Kat fans are loving our latest DUO flavors: Mocha + Chocolate, Key Lime Pie and Fruity Cereal. We welcome these additions as they join more than 90 sweet and savory brands—like Ice Breakers Gum and Mints, Twizzlers, Skinny Pop, Pirate’s Booty and more—that fit every occasion.

We’re investing for the future

Across the country, when times grew tough, we saw the growing importance of making moments of goodness among friends and family. It was an honor to see Hershey play an integral role in those moments, from backyard s’mores gatherings to baking extravaganzas to at home movie nights. In these immeasurably stressful times, we’re honored to be a part of people’s moments both big and small, and we’re committed to being there for them.

To that end, we’ve delivered core products, seasonal products and custom programs to retail shelves and online at unprecedented levels. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve delivered nearly $500 million in growth. And, we’re continuing to invest in sustainable long-term growth in the future with over $750 million in additional capacity investments and new capabilities.

As we inch closer toward Fall, we’re preparing for another season of beloved Halloween traditions. We know that in times of uncertainty, families need traditions—not to mention fun!—and Halloween represents exactly that for a growing portion of the population. Hershey has leaned into the optimism of the season and is working with retailers to prepare for a holiday to remember.

When Milton Hershey first started his company, it was built with a purpose. Today, the business has grown to more than 16,000 employees around the world. But it’s bigger than all that. As we celebrate Milton’s birthday, we can still taste, see and feel his legacy. It’s in the chocolate treats that melt the distance between friends, the philanthropic work taking place at home and around the globe, and in our everlasting purpose to make more moments of goodness.

The imagery seen in this blog is a mural located in The Hershey Story: The Museum on Chocolate Avenue and painted by William Cochran.