The Hershey Co. was founded in 1984 by Milton S. Hershey in rural central Pennsylvania, USA.
Milton, did not get to finish his middle school education. At the age of 14, he left school indefinitely and became an apprentice to a newspaper publisher. This soon changed, and he became an apprentice in the confectionary business. Milton had two unsuccessful business ventures. His third business, Lancaster Caramel Company became very successful, once employing over 1,300 workers. However, after a visit to the World’s Columbia Exposition, he decided to sell the Lancaster Caramel Company for 1 million dollars and thus, The Hershey Company was formed. The very first product made available to the public was Hershey’s cocoa. Soon after products such as the Hershey bar and kisses were developed. Following the success of the company, Milton Hershey and his wife, Catherine Hershey, established the Hershey Industrial School, now known as the Hershey Milton School.
The Hershey Company, has grown to be one of the most brand recognized companies of today. It is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America and as of 2011, they produce over one billion pounds of chocolate products each year. In 2015, Hershey’s had the largest market share of 44%, against other leading brands. (Mars following second with 28.9%) They have established an image that has become a sort of staple by generations of families and in general chocolate consumers. However, in 2000, after the release of the documentary, ‘Slavery: A Global Investigation,’ many people have come out to question what really goes on behind the production of chocolate.
The Hershey Company like many other chocolate producing corporations, obtain their supply of cocoa product such as cocoa butter and cocoa powder at a processed form. The raw material, cocoa beans are at the first level of production. This is the stage where the cocoa beans are harvested.
An example of the cocoa bean supply chain:
Photo Credit: (Cocoa Consumerism)
Many of the plantations and farms that harvest these cocoa beans are situated in the Ivory Coast. Cocoa beans are harvested manually. This involves removing the ripe cocoa pods from the trees and with the use of a machete or a sharp blade, extract the beans from the pods. Unfortunately, children are hired to perform this manual process. On average, they are children from the ages of 12 to 16, but some are reported to be as young as 5 years old.
In 2009, the Payson Center for International Development at Tulane University published a research report on child labor in West African cocoa growing areas. The report measures changes and estimates of child labor in the West African cocoa sector between the 2008 to 2014 harvesting seasons. The report reveals that a total of 5.71 million children between the ages of 5-17 were found in agricultural households in the cocoa growing areas of the Ivory Coast and Ghana in 2008/2009. This number has increased to 5.97 million in the year 2013/2014.
Between 2008 to 2014 in the Ivory Coast and Ghana:
- 24% increase of children working in cocoa production
- 21% increase of child labor in cocoa production
- 18% increase in hazardous in hazardous work in the cocoa sector
These increases are a consequence to the increase in demand and production for cocoa. The research showed the lack of corporate social responsibility corporations involved have on the cocoa industry. Since 2000, there have been various acts and promises from confectionary corporations (including Hershey, Mars and Nestle) that they will self-regulate and eradicate child labor in their supply chain by 2005.
Clearly, however, this has not been met. It is now 2016 and the year to eradicate the unethical practice of child labor has been pushed further to the year 2020.