Hershey: making confectionery fun again

When it comes to confectionery brands, it doesn’t get much bigger than The Hershey Company.

Founded in 1894, the candy manufacturer has been pushing the boundaries for more than 100 years; in 2015 it made the Forbes’ 100 most innovative companies list, turning over $22.3 billion that same year.

So how does Hershey keep impressing choosy chocolate lovers into the 21st century? Big data is central to their strategy, explained Michele Buck, The Hershey Company’s North America President at #NRF16.

Like many other brands, Hershey has become well versed in capturing data and forming strategies around planned purchases, but what about the unplanned ones? Ms Buck urged brands and retailers to look at what data partners they can collaborate with in order to understand external data sources alongside internal information generation.

There is no insight too small to matter – in fact the micro-insights often reveal valid points that retailers and brands have not thought of. This needs to be done at local as well as global level, particularly in sectors such as confectionery, where purchasing volumes fluctuate across the year.

And most importantly, those insights must be put to use. The Hershey Company has used data to reinvent the confectionery aisle and make food shopping fun again for the consumer. They’ve also revamped self-checkouts in the same manner, through techniques including:

  • A facial emotion detector that gives shoppers a free sample of Hershey chocolate if they smile at the machine
  • A ‘celebrate with kisses’ machine that enables consumers to create their own oversized Hershey kiss, complete with personalised sticker, as a gift to a friend or loved one
  • 3D printing in store, so shoppers can print any object they wanted in chocolate

Whilst these have kept customers well entertained, front-end innovation at The Hershey Company is very much backed up by a comprehensive data journey. It’s still early days in terms of exploring which insights can best influence buying behaviour but, as Ms Buck concluded, being willing to test, explore and experiment makes Hershey a better brand.


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