By Deborah Cassell
Executive Editor
Candy Industry
Retail Confectioner

getting fresh: Move over Hogwarts, here comes Hershey's

Forget those new thrill rides at Kennywood, Carowinds and Kings Dominion. Nevermind the debut of Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Adults and kids looking for somewhere special to go on family vacation this summer need look no further for fun than Hershey, Pa., site of its latest attraction: Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar.
No, I’m not being facetious.
As an editor who has spent the last 4.5 years touring commercial bakeries and candy, chocolate and snack plants, I can’t see why any consumer of any age wouldn’t want to take advantage of this addition to the ever-popular Hershey’s Chocolate World.
To date, Hershey’s Chocolate World has received more than 75 million visitors. Existing offerings include Hershey’s Chocolate Tasting Adventure, Hershey’s Really Big 3-D Show and Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour. But Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar promises an even cooler experience (in this editor’s opinion). This new, hands-on destination allows visitors to (you guessed it) create their own candy bars, selecting the ingredients and packaging as well as watching them as they’re made, all while wearing authentic factory aprons and, my favorite accessory, hairnets. (Whoo-hoo!)
 Again, I’m not being facetious.

Guests at Hershey’s Create Your Own Chocolate Bar get to use equipment that’s similar to that of the company’s actual factories and pull the levers to activate machinery and dispense ingredients into their custom-designed bars, which can contain up to three inclusions; options include graham cracker crumbs, crisped rice, blueberry fruit gels, chocolate cookie bits, vanilla chips and rainbow jimmies.
After the ingredients are added, the candy bars are drenched in pure Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. Participants can even top their bars with Hershey’s Kisses-shaped sprinkles. After the bars cool, they are sealed, packaged and personalized with custom wrappers that the guests design at an interactive kiosk.
This sounds like my type of vacation. Why get sick to your stomach on corn dogs and funnel cakes at a local amusement park when you can learn how to make chocolate at a real-life factory? The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry can wait. (I’ll get there someday.) Now’s the time for consumers to see how candy is produced, in person, right before their very eyes, and not just on TV. (As much as I love the Food Network, “Unwrapped” just doesn’t do manufacturing as much as justice as a live trip to the production line … or a taste of the product just after it’s been made.)

Visitors to Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar get to do just that, using real machinery and wearing real hairnets – bonus!

Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar opened this past Saturday, June 12. The introductory cost of just $14.95 per person includes the 30-minute, factory-like experience plus one custom bar. I dare consumers to find a more affordable, enjoyable (and confectionery) attraction for the whole family.
See you there!
For more information, visit

Hershey to invest at least $250 million in plant, facilities upgrades

In a move designed “to create an advantaged supply chain and competitive cost structure,” The Hershey Company has unveiled a “Next Century” capital investment program that includes a $200-$225 million plant expansion of the existing West Hershey facility and approximately $50-$75 million in upgrades to distribution and administrative facilities located in Hershey, Pa.
As part of the project, production will transition from the company’s century-old facility at 19 East Chocolate Ave. in downtown Hershey to a planned expansion of the West Hershey facility, which was built in 1992. Production from the 19 East Chocolate Ave. plant as well as a portion of the workforce will relocate to the West Hershey facility. The move will eliminate 500-600 jobs as investments in technology and automation result in enhanced efficiency in the new building.
 “Next Century will ensure that we continue to make the world’s best chocolate and are well-positioned in the marketplace,” says David West, Hershey’s president and ceo. “Our investment will create a highly flexible, cost-effective manufacturing facility that will enable us to remain competitive with global players while satisfying the needs of retail customers and consumers.
“The 19 East Chocolate Ave. factory is a proud part of the company’s heritage, but the facility is over 100 years old and simply cannot be modernized to meet the manufacturing needs of a 21st century business,” he continued. “Our employees at the facility have worked hard, and we are pleased that many of them will transition to the new facility, continuing to make Hershey’s syrup, Hershey’s milk chocolate and milk chocolate with almond bars, and Hershey’s Kisses brand milk chocolates, as they have for many years.
“We operate in an ever-changing global marketplace and will continue to make the difficult decisions necessary for our business to succeed over the long term,” West says. “Additionally, we are committed to assisting all of the impacted the company employees during the transition.”
To preserve the distinctive heritage of downtown Hershey, the company will continue to occupy a significant portion of office space within the historic 19 East Chocolate Ave. facility, including consolidating several local headquarters offices into the vacated space. Hershey indicates that it will work to ensure that the remainder of the facility is developed in a way that complements downtown Hershey.
Total capital expenditures related to the program are expected to range from $250 million to $300 million. At the conclusion of the program in 2014, ongoing annual savings are expected to be approximately $60-$80 million.
“Our recent marketplace performance has been driven by the investments we have made in our brands and our global capabilities, fueled by our strategic focus on supply chain efficiency and effectiveness,” West says. “Savings from project Next Century will enable us to continue making investments that will deliver core business growth and position us for long-term success in the global confectionery marketplace. We must continue to look at all options that provide us the flexibility to make the investments necessary to ensure that Hershey is as successful in this century as it was in the past century.”
In early June, the company announced it had reached a tentative labor agreement with the union representing employees at its 19 East Chocolate Ave. and West Hershey facilities. Upon approval of the labor pact, Hershey’s Board of Directors was asked to review and approve the Next Century modernization project, which it did unanimously.
For more information, visit

Mass supercenters, e-commerce to dominate retailing, Nielsen says

When it comes to the future of retailing, stop, look and look again, advises The Nielsen Co. At its Consumer 360 Conference in Las Vegas yesterday, the New York City-based global information and measurement company presented its Retail 2015 Forecast, emphasizing that the pace of change is only accelerating as technology, marketing trends and retail formats converge to redefine how Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) retailers and manufacturers interact with consumers.
By 2015, Nielsen predicts mass supercenters and e-commerce to be the big winners by dollar share gains, growing by a combined five share points between 2009 and 2015. Warehouse club, dollar store and pet stores also will grow share positions. Nielsen forecasts that supermarkets will continue to lose share, but at a declining rate. While both high-end and low-end niche grocers will grow share, overall share positions will remain fairly low given lower per-store sales compared to larger formats. Other key CPG channels, including drug stores, mass merchandisers and convenience stores, will grow dollar sales, but suffer share losses.
“While e-commerce sales felt the recessionary pain in 2008 and 2009, Q4 2009 sales were solid, and interest from both CPG manufacturers and retailers to provide online buying options has never been stronger,” says Todd Hale, Nielsen’s senior vice president, consumer & shopper insights. “With tech-savvy Generation X and Millennials growing in importance in both numbers and spending power, the time is ripe for the next step in the evolution of online searching and buying.”
Hale also suggests that while supercenter expansion may be slowing down from recent years, past performance suggests there is still room for growth. Nielsen expects to see further CPG retail consolidation as retailers look for scale and opportunities to expand their footprint into existing and new areas. Retail consolidation will be most active within the supermarket and convenience channels in the race for scale.
One of the biggest CPG shifts Nielsen sees by 2015 already is underway: the use of smart phones to engage consumers and help them make better shopping choices. According to Nielsen, smart phone penetration stands at 23% of all mobile subscribers and is expected to overtake feature phones in the United States by the end of 2011. Nielsen predicts that by 2015, smart phones will be the primary enabler of consumer shopping engagements, and new technology innovations will generate additional opportunities for retailers and manufacturers.
“Without question, the smart phone has revolutionized how consumers leverage technology to simplify their lives and make better, informed shopping decisions,” Hale says. “At the same time, CPG manufacturers and retailers have developed online and social marketing and brand/banner-specific apps to increase consumer loyalty, build sales and create a competitive advantage. This trend will undoubtedly continue and bring about game-changing innovations to our retail world.”
For more information, visit

Sweet Candy hires Greg Cater to lead business development

Salt Lake City-based Sweet Candy Co. has appointed Greg Cater v.p. of business development. He will be responsible for continued brand development and increased distribution.
As part of the company’s sales and marketing team, which includes Richard Kay, president and coo, Curtis Fulton, v.p. of sales; and Bruce Thompson, national sales manager, Cater will oversee Sweet Candy’s business development efforts and contract/private label opportunities Cater, who’s worked in the industry for 14 years, has also served on the National Confectioners Association (NCA) Board of Trustees and is an active board member of the Western Candy Conference.
“Sweet Candy Co. is excited to broaden its sales and marketing reach with the addition of Greg,” says the company’s president, Richard Kay. “We are proud of our 118-year-old history and look forward to continued growth and success in the years to come with our newly expanded sales and marketing force. Greg’s knowledge of the industry and energy will take us to new markets and help expand channels of trade.”
For more information, visit

Lindt & Sprüngli Group Chairman and CEO Ernst Tanner (left) and Lindt USA President and CEO Thomas Linemayr do the ceremonial ribbon-cutting at Lindt USA's new cocoa roasting plant in Stratham, N.H. (Photo by Greg M. Cooper/Lindt USA)

Lindt USA christens new cocoa roasting facility

Lindt & Sprüngli, one of the world’s leading producers of premium chocolate, today unveiled a new state-of-the-art bean-roasting facility at its U.S. headquarters in Stratham, N.H.
The new 40,000-sq. ft., multimillion-dollar cocoa liquor plant provides the company with the capability to clean, roast and grind cocoa beans and, ultimately, to create cocoa liquor -- a key component in the chocolate production process. The addition allows Lindt USA to control the entire chocolate production process, from bean to finished product, at its Stratham manufacturing plant.
“Lindt’s major investment in the U.S. production facility reinforces our commitment to the highest quality standards and our desire to accommodate the growing consumer demand for premium chocolate,“ said Ernst Tanner, chairman and ceo of the Swiss-based Lindt & Sprüngli Group. “The U.S. cocoa liquor plant is another example of Lindt’s ongoing passion for producing the most premium chocolate made from the finest ingredients.”
To commemorate the facility expansion, Governor John Lynch and the Stratham Board of Selectmen both declared June 16 Lindt Chocolate Day in the state of New Hampshire and in the town of Stratham.
For more information, visit

Sweet of the week: NOT JUST CEREAL

NOT JUST CEREAL from Nassau Candy, Hicksville, N.Y., combines the flavor and crunch of real cereal “drenched” in smooth milk chocolate. It comes in four varieties: Fruity O’s, Cinnamon Crunch, Toasted Rice and Honey Toasted O’s. Each is packaged in cute, colorful, easy-to-carry snack packs that are shaped like milk cartons. Made in the USA. The suggested retail price is $2.50 per snack pack.
For more information, call 1-516-433-7100 or visit