The chilly streets of Hershey, Pennsylvania, are quiet now. It's nothing like the summers, when hordes of tourists pour in, bringing their children to ride roller coasters in Hershey Park and see the lampposts shaped like Hershey's Kisses.
They're absent the spectacle that happens every few years, when deal talk bubbles, and journalists try to quickly imbue themselves in the quirky company called Hershey. For now, the town is out of the spotlight and quietly working on something it's never mastered: change.
Without Hershey's controlling shareholder, a charitable trust that supports a school for underprivileged children, Hershey would have long ago sold. That is the view of most experts. Its competitors are now larger and more diversified. Hershey's brands remain strong but the company is vulnerable to the whims of the U.S. chocolate business. Absent selling, it must transform on its own.
Hershey's plan: Take all of its strengths and clout as the country's No. 1 chocolate company and use them to reinvent itself as a snacking company. The U.S. is being overtaken by one-handed eaters and Hershey wants a much bigger bite of the $88 billion snacking industry.
That means making its own classic chocolate products more snackable. It also means buying new snack brands, some without any chocolate. It recently forked over $1.6 billion for SkinnyPop-parent Amplify, its largest deal yet. All the while, Hershey will continue to fiercely defend its profitable and powerful chocolate business.
It already ranks second in snacks, behind PepsiCo, by virtue of being the nation's largest chocolate company, argues its CEO, Michele Buck.