December 01, 2017

The Hershey chocolate factory is expanded, circa 1915. Credit: Hershey Derry Twp. Historical Society

Americans absolutely adore chocolate. The average American consumes 11 pounds of the stuff per year. But when did this love affair with chocolate start? Back in the 19th century, sugar was a luxury good, and chocolate was mostly for the rich. Milton Hershey, and his Hershey bar, changed all that. Historian Nancy Koehn, author of “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times,” has written about Hershey’s life and company. She walks us through who he was, and how he gave America a taste for chocolate.

Three Takeaways 

  • Milton Hershey didn’t start off mass-producing chocolate. He originally found success selling caramels… after repeatedly going bankrupt making other types of candy, like sour balls. It was only after he sold his caramel company that he decided to fully devote himself to chocolate.
  • His first major candy innovation was to figure out how to make milk chocolate on a large scale. And this took Hershey years of messy, smelly, difficult tinkering. He worked obsessively, experimenting with multiple combinations to figure out the problem.
  • When Hershey’s company needed to expand, he didn’t just build a factory… he built a town. Hershey, Pennsylvania - which still exists - was created for the purpose of making chocolate.

More reading 

Nancy Koehn, factory, Hershey, Milton Hershey, innovation hub, pri, WGBH, chocolate, Kara Miller

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