Dale Clark, senior director of category management at The Hershey Company, recently took some time to talk with Candy Industry Editor Crystal Lindell on the latest episode of Candy Industry’s podcast Confectionery Conversations.

Clark detailed Hershey’s plans to expand its Global Consumer Insights Center (GCIC). The Center is a physical building located near the company’s corporate headquarters in Hershey, Pa., and it’s designed to showcase retail innovations and products. Lindell visited the center in 2019, and coverage of that visit is included in this article, “How the 125-year-old Hershey Company continues to innovate.”

While Hershey typically updates the GCIC every year, this update will be more extensive and includes a 1,200-sq.-ft. expansion. The space will still highlight retail innovations, but Hershey is expanding its food service and licensing areas as well. 

As Clark explains to Lindell in the episode, Hershey has a couple reasons to update the GCIC this year. 

“Obviously technology and things have changed over the course of the year, so we want to make sure that we're better able to meet some of those needs from a technology standpoint,” Clark says. “We also have areas dedicated to ePerformance and supply chain. A few years ago we really didn't think about eFullfillment as much, especially in the candy space. But obviously, times are changing and COVID specifically has really accelerated the pace with eFullfillment and eCommerce in general. “

Hershey also has been expanding its virtual capabilities for the GCIC, allowing them to interact with more retailers, in more places.  

The company launched the Hershey Insights Network in October 2020. 

The HIN is a virtual meeting experience that features the latest insights and solutions, broadcasted to retail partners in a unique and remote platform. Much like a television studio, the HIN serves as its own network, with a multi-camera studio and video switcher to ensure retail partners have a live experience unlike any other. 

“Obviously No. 1 we want to be in-person, but certainly with the pandemic we had to pivot. So we launched Hershey's Insights Network to be able to do that,” Clark explains in the episode. “These in-person meetings we used to have, it's usually two days or two and a half days that a retailer would have to commit to traveling to Hershey and meeting with us in our facility. With the Hershey's Insights Network... it's easier to set up a two-and-a-half or a three-hour meeting with our retail partners and go through a seasonal discussion or a center store discussion, or whatever it might be. And it also helps us to expand the audience. If you have 3-4 people traveling to Hershey... now you can have 20 people.”

Check out the full episode audio above to hear Clark’s insights about unplanned purchases in the age of eCommerce, seasonal candy sales and which pandemic-related consumer changes will likely linger after the pandemic is over.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to check out the Confectionery Conversations episode featuring Ferrara’s Mariah Havens here.