WEST HERSHEY, PA -- Production is in full swing at Hershey Co.'s new $300 million state-of-the-art factory here. It's located less than two miles from the company's original chocolate factory, opened in 1905 by Milton Hershey, which closed in April.
The 340,000-sq.ft. expansion doubles the plant's capacity. Upgraded lines that produce Hershey's Kisses can churn out more than 70 million of the iconic foil-wrapped candies a day, thanks to first-of-its-kind proprietary candy manufacturing equipment built to speed production, enhance quality and accommodate future products.
The modern plant is one of the few U.S. chocolate manufacturers to use fresh, liquid milk, a Hershey's tradition. Also onsite is a fresh-almond roasting facility.
The West Hershey workforce includes some 700 employees who transitioned from the original Hershey plant. The chocolate giant has nearly 9,000 employees at its eight plants in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois and Oregon, and some 14,000 worldwide.
The maker of Twizzlers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups has reportedly been mulling expansion in China, where it operates through a partnership with South Korea retailer Lotte Shopping Co. The companies' shared plant is now running at 90% capacity and demand continues to rise. Hershey has said that it is considering forming an additional joint venture to meet the anticipated growth in China, or building its own facility.
While the U.S. represents Hershey's largest market with 84% of 2011 revenue, its overseas sales, particularly in developing regions, have grown from 14% in 2009 to 16% in 2011.