Search for the Perfect Formula
By the early 1890s, Milton Hershey’s Lancaster Caramel Company was an established success. Fortunately, its very success set free Mr. Hershey’s enthusiasm, energy and love of technology to look for a new challenge.
He found it at the Columbian Exposition where, in 1893, he had the chance to see a complete chocolate manufacturing operation in action. There, he arranged to purchase the entire assembly and had it shipped to Lancaster as soon as the Exposition closed. Upon arrival, the equipment was set up in a wing of the caramel factory. It was here that Hershey first experimented with the chocolate-making process. He established the Hershey Chocolate Company and soon began marketing baking chocolate, cocoa and sweet chocolate products in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Milton Hershey's greatest contribution to the food industry was in the manufacture of milk chocolate. He was not, of course, the first to make it. The Swiss began manufacturing milk chocolate as a luxury item in 1876. But Milton Hershey was the first to make it commercially, with mass production techniques, and using fresh milk.
Developing the formula for Hershey's milk chocolate was not a simple task. Bert Black, who began working for Milton Hershey in 1899, remembered: "Nobody told Mr. Hershey how to make milk chocolate. He just found out the hard way."
After several years of trial and error Hershey’s milk chocolate was introduced in 1900. It would require several more years of experimentation before Milton Hershey decided that he had hit upon the perfect formula. Unlike the sweet chocolate line which marketed confections in dozens of shapes, milk chocolate was marketed in only a few shapes: bars, croquettes and wafers.
One hundred years ago Hershey’s milk chocolate appealed to consumers not only because it was great tasting, but also because it provided the average person an opportunity to enjoy what up until then had been a luxury treat.