Everyone knows what their favorite Hershey’s product is, but there are a few things that you might not know about Milton Hershey’s company—a.k.a., the company behind beloved candies like Almond Joy, Heath, Reese’s, Kit Kat, and more.
1. The Hershey Empire is build on a fourth-grade education.
The Hershey family moved around a lot when Milton was a kid, which meant that he frequently changed schools. After Hershey finished the fourth grade, his parents decided that it was time for the young man to learn a trade. He began an apprenticeship with a printer but hated it, and in 1872 he began working for a confectioner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
2. Milton Hershey’s first love was caramel.
In 1876, Milton Hershey went to Philadelphia and used what he learned as a confectioner’s apprentice to start his first business, Crystal A. Caramels. When this venture failed, Hershey found another apprenticeship in Denver. After regrouping out West, he started a second company in New York City, which also failed. Hershey then returned home and turned his third venture, the Lancaster Caramel Company, into a global juggernaut with over 1400 employees.
3. Milton Hershey became interested in chocolate after the 1893 World’s Fair.
It wasn’t until 17 years after he opened his first failed caramel company that Hershey became interested in chocolate making. While attending the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Hershey was so taken with the display of German chocolate production that he bought the exhibit’s machinery after the exposition closed. The next year, he opened the Hershey Chocolate Company back in Lancaster. The new venture was such a success that in 1900 Hershey sold his caramel company for $1 million to devote himself to chocolate.
4. Hershey’s once made gum.
Milton Hershey wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with rival companies. When he believed that Beech Nut Gum was going to start making chocolate to put him out of business, he put his cousin Clayton Snavely in charge of buying the equipment and gathering the know-how to get his company’s gum off the ground.
Hershey’s “Easy Chew” was introduced in 1915, but Hershey had trouble getting sugar and chicle (a natural gum) due to import restrictions placed on non-essential products. Easy Chew last appeared on store shelves in 1924.
5. No one knows how Hershey’s KISSES got their name—not even the company.
Hershey’s KISSES hit the market in 1907, and the Hershey Food Corporation holds the trademark for the word, but don’t ask what the name means—Milton Hershey took that secret to his grave. According to one timeline, “A popular theory is that the candy was named for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during manufacturing.”
6. Hershey’s KISSES used to be wrapped by hand.
The machines that wrap the individual bell-shaped chocolates in foil with their signature plumes weren't developed until 1921, 14 years after the sweets were introduced.
7. The town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, was built for the employees of the factory.
As a successful business owner with a lot of workers, Milton Hershey believed that in order for his company to thrive, his employees had to be happy. He designed and built the model town to be a community, with brick houses and lawns, and also established what is now Hersheypark so that the families would have a place for recreation.
8. The company’s logo used to be a baby inside a cocoa bean.
For seven decades, the image that chocolate lovers associated with Hershey’s was the “Cocoa Bean Baby.” Introduced in 1898, the tot appeared on packaging and in advertisements until the company became the Hershey Food Corporation in 1968.
9. Hershey has aTitanic connection.
Hershey and his wife, Kitty, put a deposit down for a room on the Titanic on its maiden voyage, but something made them return home instead. There are two versions of the history floating around: Either Kitty was sick, or Milton had business that meant he needed to head home earlier than anticipated. Either way, the ship left the docks without them, and we all know how that ended.
10. The name Mr. Goodbar was a misunderstanding.
As plant chemist (and later President) Samuel Hinkle later recounted, the company was looking to add a peanut product to their line in the 1920s. While executives were thinking of a name, someone said that the new product was “a good bar.” Milton Hershey was hard of hearing and thought that the exec had said “Mr. Goodbar.” He liked the name, so it stuck.
11. Hershey’s chocolate is part of United States military history.
In 1937, the chocolate maker met with representatives from the U.S. Army and began experimenting with ration bars that could withstand combat conditions and would taste “a little better than a boiled potato” so troops wouldn’t be tempted to prematurely wolf them down. The Field Ration D bars weren’t a hit with soldiers, but they met the government’s specifications. Between 1941 and 1945, Hershey produced over a billion of the bars.
12. Heat-resistant Hershey’s chocolate has been to the moon.
After the success of the Ration D bar, Hershey worked with the military again to create a heat-resistant “Hershey's Tropical Chocolate Bar.” The bars lasted up to an hour in 120 degree temperatures, and were given to hungry soldiers entering warmer climates. In 1971, the bars were given to astronauts aboard Apollo 15.
13. There’s a KISS hidden in the Hersey's KISSES logo.
There is absolutely a sideways KISS hiding between the K and I in KISSES. Now you’ll never be able to unsee it.
14. The company holds the Guinness World Record for the “World's Largest Piece of Chocolate (Individual).”
As a part of their 100th anniversary celebration for the treat in 2007, Hershey’s made a giant KISS that weighed over 30,000 pounds. It took a team of 152 people nine days to construct the 12-foot-tall sculpture and wrap it in over 16,000 feet of foil.
A version of this story ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2022.