Transparency, choice essential to success at Hershey

The Hershey Co. continued to make strides during 2014 in its effort to provide responsible sourcing, environmental sustainability, ingredient transparency and simple ingredients.

“Consumers are asking for more transparency and nutritional choice than ever before,” John Bilbrey, chairman and chief executive officer of Hershey, said in the company’s 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report issued April 30. “In response, we are working diligently, broadening our portfolio in order to compete in new categories, and sharing the information about our ingredients and sourcing that consumers expect.

“Building on our strong responsible sourcing track record, we recently announced that we have begun our move to simple ingredients, which will allow us to communicate what’s inside our products in easy-to-understand language.”

In the area of ethical sourcing and sustainable agriculture, Hershey said it is up to 30% use of certified cocoa, ahead of schedule to reach its 2015 goal of 50%. Hershey has pledged to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa in all chocolate products by 2020.

“Over the years, we have diversified our products to include hundreds of non-chocolate confections,” Hershey said. “Yet much of our tradition is and will always be embedded in the creation of chocolate. With Hershey chocolatiers crafting new chocolate recipes and our customers buying more chocolate products, from Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars to Dagoba Organic Chocolates, we realized it was crucial to rigorously address the sustainability challenges for sourcing our primary ingredient, cocoa.”

Hershey also during the year helped found CocoaAction, a pre-competitive industry collaboration seeking to align the cocoa sustainability efforts of the world’s largest cocoa and chocolate companies to improve farmer productivity, address child labor challenges, make basic education available, and improve gender parity in cocoa production. Additionally, the company expanded its Hershey’s Learn to Grow program into Cote d’Ivoire. The program teaches farmers agricultural best practices and aims to distribute millions of new disease-resistant trees.

In early 2015, Hershey announced the beginning of its transition to simple and easy-to-understand ingredients. The company said it is focusing on three key principles:

• Simple ingredients — A commitment to making products using ingredients that are simple and easy to understand.

• Transparency — Making product information easy to find, whether on packaging, the company’s web site or through new technologies.

• Responsible sourcing of ingredients — Continuing to work with suppliers to responsibly source sustainable ingredients, building on success in ethical and sustainable ingredient sourcing during the past several years.

Among the products that will be transitioned to simpler ingredients in 2015 are Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolate and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars. The company also will introduce new snacking products such as Brookside Dark Chocolate Fruit and Nut Bars.

In an effort to “demystify” each ingredient, Hershey has compiled an on-line ingredient glossary that lists and explains every ingredient used across Hershey’s brands in the United States and Canada. Hershey also is using the on-line glossary to address questions often asked by consumers about the presence of caffeine in the company’s products and the food colors Hershey uses.

“We encourage our consumers to learn as much about the ingredients we use, and we are committed to helping them find this information,” Hershey said. “We will continue to expand our web site as a place to share what we believe about a range of important ingredient-related issues.”