A Sweet Profile of Grit

Milton Hershey's sweet dream


If you are a fan of Westerns, as I am, you know that candy was an extra special treat in those days and was stored in bulk at the General Store. There were barrels or glass jars of lemon drops, candy ginger, peppermint, and candy canes. Chocolate was noticeably absent. Fast forward to today. The National Confectioner's Association reports that 80 percent of Americans giving gifts to their sweetheart on Valentine's Day gave chocolate or other candy. And for those who don't have a sweetheart, 43 percent buy a box of chocolate for themselves!

The grit of one man in particular is responsible for this dramatic shift in our tastes and the packaging, popularity, and availability of chocolate. That man was Milton Hershey and you can read his story here. Born to Mennonite parents in 1857, Milton overcame a turbulent childhood that included watching his father fail time and again at various business enterprises and culminating in the separation of his parents. By age 30, he himself failed twice with unsuccessful candy businesses.

But unlike his father, Milton learned from his failures, failing forward to found the very successful Lancaster Caramel Factory. In 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, he gravitated to a chocolate exhibit that eventually inspired him to devote himself to making chocolate a candy for the masses. His vision led him to establish a Utopian company town, Hershey, PA, and an enterprise that changed the way we think about and consume candy. It took an abundance of grit for Milton to develop the manufacturing processes required, not to mention lead the transition from the General Store’s barrel of lemon drops to a single-serve packaged chocolate bar.

I, for one, am especially grateful for Milton Hershey's sweet dream of chocolate for the masses and his perseverance in stimulating demand while simultaneously perfecting his manufacturing processes in the face of many challenges.