5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hershey

Hershey  is one of the largest confectionery companies in the world with a market capitalization of nearly $21 billion. Dating back to 1894, the company has a rich history and, as such, has many interesting tidbits of information to bring to the table. With that being said, let's dig into some things that you probably didn't know about Hershey!

Hershey had a predecessor!
One point you may not be aware of that is buried in the company's history is that Hershey (originally known as Hershey Chocolate) was not the first candy company set up by Milton Hershey, its founder. Prior to being set up in 1894, Milton Hershey owned and operated another candy maker called Lancaster Caramel. Founded in 1886, the Lancaster Caramel Company focused on the production of caramel. However, in an effort to grow the company, Milton Hershey founded Hershey Chocolate in 1894 so that he could coat his caramel confections with chocolate.

By 1900, the company had grown large enough to fetch $1 million from American Caramel. As part of the deal, Milton Hershey was allowed to keep Hershey Chocolate, an endeavor predicated on Hershey's belief that chocolate had a bright future.

Hard times meant delicious measures
Normally, when the economy experiences a substantial downturn, companies opt for making their workforce leaner by letting employees go. This is usually a terrible thing for the affected employees and their families but, in the case of Hershey, the opposite move was made during the Great Depression. As a result of the company developing four major new product lines (MR. GOODBAR, HERSHEY's Syrup, HERSHEY's chocolate chips, and the KRACKEL bar) between 1925 and 1938 that proved profitable, not one employee had to be terminated for the sake of the company.

Chocolate is sweet, but weapons packed quite a punch too!
It's a fairly well known fact that during World War I and World War II, Hershey provided ration bars. In fact, by the end of World War II, it was estimated that the company had supplied more than 1 billion "Ration D" bars to the troops, an effort that likely helped to solidify the company as a true American corporation. As a result of its service, the company received at least five Army-Navy "E" Production Awards by the time the war was done.

Although this alone is a triumph, it should be mentioned that chocolate wasn't the only thing the company supplied U.S. troops in a concerted effort to win the war against Germany. The company also manufactured weaponry! More specifically, it utilized its machine shop to produce parts for the Navy's antiaircraft guns. Talk about death by chocolate!

REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups weren't developed by Hershey
Though it might be a logical conclusion that Hershey's developed REESE'S Peanut Butter Cups, anyone bold enough to state this without doing their homework is wrong... kind of. You see, back in 1928, after Hershey had been repeatedly asked and had repeatedly rebuffed Harry Reese's idea to make chocolate-covered peanut butter products, he finally relented and helped Reese set up shop nearby where he would focus on trying to make his dream a reality.

From 1928 to 1956, Hershey's supplied H.B. Reese Candy with the chocolate coating for the company's peanut butter cups. Seeing the strong relations between the companies survive Reese's death and seeing how strong the brand had become, however, Hershey decided to acquire Reese's in 1956.

The company is global... at least in some sense of the word
Currently, Hershey offers more than 80 products in more than 70 different countries. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that the company is global in scope. When you look at its concentration, however, you find that it doesn't really have much of a major footprint anywhere outside of the United States.

For instance, while sales derived from its international operations have been growing as a percentage of its consolidated sales, they still make up a mere 16.1% of sales as of the end of the company's 2012 fiscal year. This is up from 14.6% in 2011, but indicates that, with 43% U.S. market share and less than 5% global market share, the company will have to emphasize growth in key international markets if it wants to continue to be competitive.

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The article 5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hershey originally appeared on Fool.com.

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