The one thing I have observed over my years working at Hershey is that every project can be a journey in its own right.
Whether it’s overcoming unavoidable obstacles, long hours and painful lessons learned or travelling to new places and meeting new people, every project has an impact and shapes the way we approach things in the future.
Project “Made in Pack” was certainly such a journey. In fact, no other project in my career has touched on so many of these different points.
But first, let me tell you what “Made in Pack” is. As the name indicates, this is a chocolate product that is actually made inside of its package. We literally form a piece of chocolate candy directly into the package.
In the traditional world of chocolate making, we typically deposit chocolate into a mould to define the product shape and then remove it from the mould after cooling and send it into a wrapping machine. At this point, a loose wrapper typically covers the product and a shopper really can’t see the exact shape of what they are getting.
This is where "Made in Pack" is different. Besides changing how we manufacture the product, people can see exactly what shape their piece of chocolate has taken — the product and package are the same shape. Coupled with creative graphic designs, artwork and added features, this opens a whole platform of new options to offer consumers for different occasions, from holidays to special events.
We originally considered this technology for emerging markets, where superior product protection is required and where melting chocolate is a daily concern. But as the innovation progressed, it became clear that there was a lot more potential for what we could do with this new technology.
The first step was to figure out how to execute and bring the idea from concept to consumer. With support from our leaders, we began to put together our “Alpha” line — the first line of its kind to enable Hershey to run small-scale manufacturing of a commercially viable product. This was an intentional effort to carefully carry to new product idea forward. And once we got started, things really began to accelerate.
The team quickly set out to define the needed operations, develop film structures and integrate all of this together into a process. We were literally designing and building the equipment as we were figuring out the process, which meant learning and making some judgement calls along the way. Did we get everything right? Of course not. But we managed risks and developed mitigation plans to keep schedules on track. Right up to the point at which we were shipping the new equipment to our plants, we were making changes to the process. Fortunately, we not only had a great team here at Hershey, but also flexible equipment partners who were as committed to our success as we were.
At the same time we were creating the new process, we had to figure out what we were making and where we were going to make it. Defining the first product for this process was not easy; we worked through several iterations of products, shapes and sizes, and commercial applications before the team landed on the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Snowman.
Once we settled on the Snowman, we had to target a retail channel for our introduction and decide where we were going to put the production line. Our small “Semiworks” facility in York, Pa., was the perfect location and just the right size and proximity to Hershey, Pa.
We started producing the Snowman ahead of the winter season and got the product into market before the holidays. The feedback from our retail customers and consumers so far has been outstanding.
For me, this was more than an energizing new career journey. I am hopeful this is the start of a new chapter of exciting products that will make seasons and special occasions even brighter for people, thanks to this new packaging technology. Get ready, we have more in store for 2018!