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HersheyArchives@30, Part 31: West Hershey

West Hershey manufacturing plant under construction, ca. 1990-1991
West Hershey manufacturing plant under construction, ca. 1990-1991

Well, our anniversary year has past, but we have one more story to share that highlights the Archives’ oral history collection. Enjoy!

West Hershey, The Hershey Company’s manufacturing facility located on the west end of Hershey, Pennsylvania, began operating in 1993. However, the need for the facility was first recognized in the 1970s. Richard A. Zimmerman, who was then Chief Operating Officer and later Chief Executive Officer, understood the challenges Hershey Chocolate faced in the last quarter of the 20th century and began implementing changes that would lead to the company’s success in the coming century.

Zimmerman was aware that Mr. Hershey’s original factory, which opened in 1905, was nearing obsolescence and that the company needed to reexamine its manufacturing processes. He recognized that in order to modernize the manufacturing process the company needed to start with its milk processing technique. Fresh milk is a critical ingredient in Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. How the milk is processed is essential to the development of the “Hershey flavor.”

[W]e were working on Hershey West in 1976… I knew we had a very obsolescent, if not obsolete, processing technique. Literally, our processing of milk, the condensation of that product, was circa 1920… So we began to work hard on the milk aspect, because so much of our flavor is developed through the milk process, that we knew that we had to find a new way to do that. So we began to work pretty diligently, and kept working at it and working at it and working at it for over ten years.  [Oral history interview with Richard A. Zimmerman, 11/07/1995.  95OH08.]

Craig Moyer, a process engineer hired by Hershey Chocolate in 1973, became involved in modernizing the manufacturing process. A significant portion of his career was focused on modernizing milk processing and planning the West Hershey facility. He acknowledged Zimmerman’s contribution to Hershey’s continued success.

I don’t know this for a fact because [Mr. Zimmerman] never really told me, but he had to have realized that The Hershey Company couldn’t move forward based on the [original/19 East] Hershey plant… he had the courage and he had the vision to allow us to move forward… that would let the company move forward. [Oral history interview with Craig Moyer, 03/10/2014.  2014OH02.]

Upon his retirement in 1993, Zimmerman’s tenure as CEO was noted for his commitment to modernization, manufacturing capacity expansion, quality and productivity improvement, an expanded international presence, increased efforts in new product development, and an emphasis on innovative training opportunities for employees.

B-Roll of West Hershey factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Milk processing and factory exteriors, September 2012.

In 2012, a new 340,000 sq. ft. expansion to the West Hershey facility was completed.  The $300 million investment features the latest manufacturing technology and equipment that speeds production, delivers consistent high quality, and provides the opportunity to produce new products in the future. In the tradition of Mr. Zimmerman, approximately 700 employees were trained to prepare them to work in the facility’s high-tech manufacturing environment.

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