The Hershey Story

In the mid 1980’s the Hershey Company needed to develop a truly long-range product vision to drive R&D innovation projects. The challenge was to invent the Kiss for the year 2000! Developing ideas for a time more than 15 years away allowed the team to invent beyond the needs of the 1983 consumer and beyond the candy-making machinery of the time.


To creatively develop the new product future, the team needed to build a map. The map would have two coordinates: What consumers will need/want/desire in the year 2000, and what capabilities/ technology might drive the industry of the future.


The cross-functional Hershey team started with plotting the trajectories of the demographic trends that would be most likely to influence their market in the next 15 to 20 years. Baby Boomers were identified as a large emerging demographic. They figured, Boomers would want complex mouth feel, complex flavors and portion control as did the current older market. The technology trajectory was also forecast. On the technical side processes from precision plastic molding looked exciting. In this logical way, a map of the future’s coordinates emerged.


The map of the future was used as the boundary for this brainstorming work. A team of over two dozen diverse Hershey employees and facilitators used the future map to develop hundreds of ideas and scores of concepts. Ideas came from customized creative problem-solving and creativity excursions. One excursion was to watch children playing with chocolate – opera in the background. Another of the creativity exercises was to go off into groups and draw or write about a dream vacation. One group had drawn a mountain with ski ‘shoosh’ marks circling the mountain. This drawing became the inspiration for the design of Hershey Hugs.


A new product road map came into focus through subsequent brainstorming sessions that created new ideas by building backward to the 1983 Kiss equity from the future idea of Hugs. The first idea on the path was, “Kiss in holiday wrappers.” Remember the time when Hershey kisses only came in the classic silver wrappers? Is a piece of chocolate in colored foil a new product idea? Maybe yes, maybe no, but with over $100 million in incremental, non-cannibalistic sales annually, who cares?


An idea that was generated from the knowledge that Boomers have a need for more complex mouth feel and flavor was Kisses with Almonds. However, Hershey didn’t possess the technology to make this product with their existing equipment. The success of Kiss with Holiday Wrappers made the development of the Kisses with Almonds possible. Kisses with Almonds (KWA) took nearly five years to develop with scores of ingredient modifications, new-to-the-world technology and machine innovations. (Example: A part of the molding technology came from Armstrong (ceilings) paper-making capability.)


Product Development Director Kathy Rhyne, said that over 320 people could have said “NO” to the launch of KWA: No, we haven’t secured the supply chain. No, we aren’t sure of the new molding technology. No, we haven’t proven shelf stability. No, we don’t think we have the right design for the package. However, Kisses with Almonds was another huge hit, almost the equal of holiday wrappers and again incremental and without cannibalization.


The brand had now nearly tripled in size from $125 mm to well over $300 mm a year. With the molding technology platform established, Hugs took only a few years to launch.