The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Hershey

Sustainability Series: Hershey


April 29, 2012

Headquartered in Hershey, Pa., the Hershey Company is the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery. With more than 12,000 employees and revenues of nearly $6 billion, Hershey offers confectionery products under more than 25 brand names, including such iconic brands as Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, Hershey's Bliss, Hershey's Special Dark, Kit Kat, Twizzlers, and Ice Breakers. We spoke with Andy McCormick, VP, Public Affairs for the Hershey Company, about the importance of bringing resources together for farmers in innovative ways.

How does your business define sustainability?

For the Hershey Company, sustainability is part of an ongoing and expanding commitment to corporate social responsibility, a duty deeply rooted in our heritage since Milton Hershey founded the company.
We believe that environmental and economic sustainability is based on strong and successful partnerships with community, governments and local cocoa farmers based on the underlying belief that we should grow our business responsibly, including how we manufacture our products.
How are you incorporating sustainable cocoa practices into your business?

As part of our global commitment to sustainability, we contribute to industry-wide efforts and drive our own initiatives to support growing cocoa responsibly throughout the world, paying special attention to initiatives that support the farmers directly. 
What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Because cocoa is a vital source of income to farmers and a key foreign export for countries in West Africa, it is critical to create better conditions on cocoa farms to attract the next generation of farmers.
That’s why we will continue to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families.

  • In 2011, Hershey founded CocoaLink, a first-of-its kind farmer outreach program that uses mobile voice and SMS text messages delivered in local languages or English to connect cocoa farmers with important information about improving farming practices, farm safety, child labor, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing. Since its introduction in Ghana, CocoaLink has helped improve cocoa production for thousands of participating rural farmers. In 2012, we look to expand this program to the Ivory Coast, where farmers are eager to increase cocoa production.
  • This year, we are establishing the Hershey Learn to Grow farm program in Ghana to serve as model for local farmers on best practices in sustainable cocoa farming.
  • Over the next five years, we will provide an additional $10 million to expand and accelerate these efforts even more in West Africa where a lot of the cocoa that goes into our chocolates is grown. Our efforts will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers. Because each farmer has an average household size of five people, the additional beneficiaries of these programs will exceed two million.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

We understand the complexity of creating sustainable change in remote areas of Africa where electricity is scarce and roads may be impassable during the rainy season.
That’s why we will continue to work with experts in agriculture, community development and government to achieve progress with cocoa farmers and their families. We think the CocoaLink program and the Learn to Grow farm are two strong examples of how we can make an impact for farmers and their families.
How do you measure your progress?

We will publically report on our progress and emerging issues as part of our accountability to Hershey stakeholders.
How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We understand that there are many paths to progress for cocoa farmers. One of those paths is at retail where our customers can choose sustainably-sourced products. We are pleased to announce that – for the first time – we will be using Rainforest Alliance certified cocoa for a major Hershey product, Hershey’s Bliss® chocolates. We look forward to connecting consumers with cocoa farmers through our partnership with Rainforest Alliance. U.S. consumers will be able to purchaseHershey’s Bliss® chocolate at 35,000 retail outlets in 2012. We will also work with Rainforest Alliance to certify our Dagoba® premium chocolate.
Through the Rainforest Alliance partnership, we will help create learning programs for farmers and address child labor issues consistent with policies and practices within communities and governments. Through this new program, farmers will learn better business practices to increase profitability and how to address the potential impact of climate change.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry? Consumer?

Consumers expect food companies to offer quality products that they can feel good about buying for themselves, their families and friends. And we want to keep offering our beloved and iconic products to consumers for the next 100 years and beyond. So it is in the collective interest of all stakeholders – the industry, farmers and consumers – to take steps now to help ensure that we are operating in a sustainable way so we can continue to delight the next generations of Hershey fans.


In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom