Investing in Quality from Belt to Shelf

Hershey's CEO Michele Buck Launches Listening Tour at West Hershey Manufacturing Plant


Ed Edson
Senior Brand Manager, U.S. Hershey Brand

When a CEO comes to personally tour your manufacturing facility and not only talks to but listens to employees, you know he or she is serious about engagement, growth and the future of the brand. That’s what was going through my mind in late August, when Michele Buck embarked on a listening tour at the West Hershey manufacturing plant in Hershey, Pa.

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Michele and I meet with the West Hershey plant leadership team. 

On the tour, Buck met men and women at the front lines of the plant, which went through a significant expansion in 2012. We produce more than 70 million Hershey’s Kisses a day, along with Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almond Bars and Hershey’s Syrup. Along the way, plant manager Dave Smullen talked about our approach to quality, safety, hiring practices and employee engagement. There was a lot of discussion around what the plant is doing to bring a skilled labor force in and how they’re working to drive retention and ensure that employees are happy, fulfilled and presented with opportunities for growth.

I’ve seen my own career grow with the company over the last eight years, so it was personally fulfilling to hear our CEO make it clear that career growth is important at every rung of the company. When the people at the manufacturing level are engaged, that makes for a better product and an empowered brand. It ensures that everybody that touches our chocolate is focused on delivering the most delightful experience possible, from belt to shelf.

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Hershey's line operators I met on our tour of the West Hershey facility. 

The timing for Buck’s visit couldn’t have been better. It was recently announced that the West Hershey plant is getting a new manufacturing line to support the growth of Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bar. That line will allow us to significantly increase production. This bar has become an important part of our portfolio since we launched it in 1995, because it’s popular with quite a diverse array of consumers—diverse in age, gender and heritage. By reinvesting in the latest technology and equipment, we’ll be better able to respond to and grow the demand for the products our consumers love. The new capabilities will also offer an opportunity to scale production of our other white chocolate products. Hershey is the category leader for white chocolate, so with this investment, we’ll be able to best serve our retailers with seasonal as well as everyday products. 

Everybody that touches our chocolate is focused on delivering the most delightful experience possible, from belt to shelf.

From where I sit, it’s one of the best times in Hershey’s history. We’re about to celebrate our 125th anniversary in 2019, and it’s an absolute honor to work with one of the most iconic brands in the United States. Over time, the company has become so much more than a chocolate company. We’ve evolved into an innovative snacks powerhouse, and one that carries out the vast majority of its manufacturing right here in the United States. We embrace our classic products, like Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Chocolate Bars and the Hershey’s S’mores, but we never stop thinking about what’s next. That’s how we’ve come up with exciting new creations like the Cookies ‘n’ Creme Candy Bar and Hershey’s Cookie Layer Crunch. I can honestly say that with Hershey's, I look forward to the future, because I know it will be incredible.

During Buck’s visit, as we walked around the plant and then sat in a town hall meeting to discuss what lies ahead and how we can improve and better serve our consumers and our retailers, I felt reaffirmed in my excitement. The company is always looking to go the extra step, whether it’s investing in its employees or investing in U.S. manufacturing. The result is a name and product that makes us all proud.