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Waste Not, Want Not: Hershey’s Cocoa Butter Soap

It promote its new product, Hershey marketed the cocoa butter soap at 6 bars for $.26 (a savings of $.25)
It promote its new product, Hershey marketed the cocoa butter soap at 6 bars for $.26 (a savings of $.25)

Milton Hershey did not like to have anything go to waste. He decided to make cocoa butter soap in 1936 as a way of dealing with the surplus million pounds of cocoa butter created by the plant each year. This surplus came from floor scrapings, unrecyclable product and cocoa shells.

Hershey Estates President Charles Ziegler* remembered:

We had a backlog of  cocoa butter [at the chocolate factory]. He [Mr. Hershey] decided since doctors used it for skin trouble, it would help the skin if was turned into soap.

Hershey Estates was selected to produce the soap since it was a non-food product. A soap maker from Lancaster, PA was hired and began working a way method to make cocoa butter soap. When the soap maker was unsuccessful, the DuPont Company was contacted. They sent a young chemist to consult.

John Hosler,* manager of the soap department related this story in a 1954 interview:

We called in DuPont.  They sent up a young chemist, just out of college. I gave him fifty pounds of cocoa butter, and he took it back to his firm. Out of fifty pounds he got three small cakes, flavored with lavender to kill the cocoa odor.

While Hershey was pleased with the soap, the scent was not approved of. Charles Ziegler remembered:

The question of taking the odor away was some job, but it can be done with perfume. Ted [Banks-the Hershey Estates chemist] made up different samples, and took them to [Mr.] Hershey at the [Hershey Country] Club.

There were four of five of us there. [Mr.] Hershey said, “Banks, what does that perfume cost you?” And so on for five or six different perfumes. He finally pick the $2.91 [an ounce] perfume, the cheapest.

He called me to wait until the others had left. Then he said, “I can’t smell, but I didn’t want those fellows to get away with that expensive perfume.

It was changed later. It was not a nice perfume at all [the cheap one]. When the soap in which it was put was about three months old, the cocoa butter smell would come back.

It took weeks of experimenting until they found a successful scent for the soap. Again with the help of the Perfume Division of the DuPont Company, Hershey developed a satisfactory bouquet for the regular Hershey Cocoa Butter Toilet Soap and another with a special rose odor for the Rose Garden Soap.

To learn more about Hershey’s Cocoa Butter soap, click here.

* Interviews with Ziegler and Hosler can be found in the Paul Wallace Research Collection.

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