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Although it still has only a limited presence outside North America, Hershey is the reigning giant in the US chocolate business with a sizeable portfolio of well-established and much-loved brands. It was the first American company to develop a recipe for milk chocolate at the beginning of the 20th century and has more or less cornered the local market ever since with its distinctively sour-tasting Hershey's bar. For many years it was in fact America's only manufacturer of milk chocolate and supplied rivals including Mars right up until the mid-1960s. The brand has also been spun off into a variety of other confectionery treats as well as syrup and drinking chocolate. The eponymous product is accompanied by another billion-seller in the form of Reese's peanut butter cups (founded in the 1920s by a former Hershey employee but not acquired by the company until 1963). Other Hershey brands include sugar candy brands such as Ice Breakers, Breath Savers and Twizzlers, and the local licenses for Nestlé's Kit Kat and Rolo and for Cadbury's Almond Joy and Creme Eggs. However, the group's overall lead in confectionery has come under intense pressure in recent years from long-time rival Mars, and it has an occasionally stormy relationship with its controlling shareholder, a charitable trust established by founder Milton Hershey. In 2002, the trust put the business up for sale. After a storm of protest from employees and the inhabitants of the town where the company is based, the sale was called off just a few weeks later. It tried unsuccessfully to raise funds to acquire Cadbury in 2009 but was beaten to that prize by Kraft. No viable opportunities remain for Hershey to grow significantly in the US through acquisition - it also missed out on an opportunity to acquire Nestlé's portfolio in 2018 - so it must now rely largely on organic development to bolster its market share. Key to this has been the expansion of its core Hershey's and Reese's brands into other categories, and the addition of a growing collection of salty snacks including Skinny Pop popcorn and ONE protein bars. Hershey's made a tentative step into meat-based snacks under the Krave brand, but later reversed that decision, selling Krave as well as non-core confectionery brands Scharffen Berger and Dagoba in 2020. A new addition in 2021 was better-for-you, stevia-sweetened chocolate brand Lily's. It has also expanded its previously limited global profile, establishing a stronger presence in Europe and Asia, though international still accounts for less than 10% of 2020's best-ever revenues of $8.1bn. Net income also hit an all-time high of almost $1.3bn that year. Michele Buck is now CEO.
Capsule checked 5th February 2021
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Historical profile information for Hershey
Marketer Moves 14th Dec 2021: New top marketer at Hershey. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 19th Nov 2021: Hershey continued to expand its snacks collection with the acquisition of two pretzel businesses. Dot's Homestyle Pretzels is a brand business based in North Dakota, while Pretzels Inc is a major manufacturer of private label snacks for supermarkets, with extensive manufacturing facilities in Indiana and Kansas. The combined price tag for the two deals was $1.2bn.
Adbrands Daily Update 28th Aug 2019: Hershey added to its snacks portfolio with the acquisition of ONE Brands for $397m. The US company makes a range of low sugar, high protein snack bars with flavours including Birthday Cake, Maple Glazed Doughnut and Peanut Butter Pie. The new purchase follows the acquisition of a minority holding in Ireland's Fulfill brand earlier this month, and joins the Oatmega brand acquired as part of Amplify.
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Dec 2017: Hershey Company this week agreed to acquire snacking company Amplify Snack Brands for around $1.6bn. Brands include Skinny Pop popcorn and corn cakes in the US, and another UK crisp maker, Tyrrell's.
Adbrands Weekly Update 31st Aug 2017: Hershey's is to prune its creative line-up later this year. Longtime agency partners Arnold and Havas will leave the roster at the end of the year, with most creative work concentrated at MDC's Anomaly and Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Several other agencies which had been on call for selected creative projects, such as Argonaut and Barkley, have already been dropped.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Mar 2017: Former Mondelez marketing chief Mary Beth West, who has spent the past couple of years as CMO of JC Penney, is to return to the confectionery aisle. Incoming Hersheys CEO Michele Buck has appointed West as chief growth officer.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th Mar 2017: Hershey's incoming CEO Michele Buck raided Unilever USA to recruit its EVP, customer development Todd Tillemans as president. Hershey is also looking to appoint a chief growth officer to oversee strategy and marketing excellence.
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