The Reese’s maker has operated the program 'Nourishing Minds' in West Africa and the US since its launch last year, and it aims to reach one million children by 2020.
Senior director of sustainability and social innovation at Hershey, Jeff King, told ConfectioneryNews that the Nourishing Minds supported Feeding America to expand and improve child nutrition and hunger programs focused on off-school time periods in six US cities.
Hershey also partnered with the Ghana School Feeding Program and Project Peanut Butter to develop and distribute a nutritious peanut-based supplement, called Vivi, to 50,000 Ghanaian children.
Gaining insights of snacking trends and flavor preferences
Hershey acknowledged that the social programs like Nourishing Minds also benefits its own business.
King said the social focus allows the company to apply its knowledge and resources, and in return, provides itself the opportunity to learn key markets important to the business.
“While our focus is social impact first, by aligning Nourishing Minds with our business expertise we gain a lot for the business as well from talent development to insights into emerging market trends, to non-traditional and disruptive business models,” King said.
“Through our nonprofit partners we learn a lot about the food and snacking trends in the countries we work, as well as taste palettes and flavor preferences in certain parts of the world,” he added.
For example, by running the Energize Learning program in Ghana, Hershey learned that stronger flavors, such as ginger, are preferred in the country.
Mutual benefits through partnerships
Whitney Mayer, manager of social innovation at Hershey, said the company chooses nonprofits with that share its goals on the desired impact.
“We also seek partners that complement our expertise,” she added.
“We may know a lot about manufacturing but less about rural distribution networks,” Mayer said. “Ultimately, Hershey and the partner need to see benefits in the relationship.”
Hershey noted that the meals provided to children through Nourishing Minds do not include the company’s confection products.
Partnering with CFPA and Food Banks Canada
Two new initiatives Hershey has invested in are with China through the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) Love Kitchen partnership, and with Canada through Food Banks Canada’s After the Bell program.
The partnership in China will rehabilitate 11 selected school canteens in rural Henan Province in China by adding modern cooking equipment to reduce environmental hazard of wood-burning cook stoves.
Hershey and CFPA are also finalizing the nutrition curriculum and training for more than 2,000 students in the country.
Meanwhile in Canada, Hershey is gathering funding and providing volunteer support for Summer Food Packs, the Food Explorers Program, and other youth engagement programs to help children develop the skills to feed themselves with basic food ingredients, Hershey added.
“It’s always a challenge to identify that sweet spot between business expertise and social impact… It was also challenging at times as we involved more departments across the business from R&D to engineering to quality,” Mayer said.
“Open communication and transparency was really the key to overcoming those rather minor hurdles so that we could continue our program work.”
Hershey has established impact measurement systems for each of its projects, and is currently exploring a few new initiatives that would give it exposure to other social business models, the company said.