HERSHEY, PA. — The Hershey Co. remains committed to improving food quality, safety and ingredient transparency, the Hershey-based company noted in its 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility (C.S.R.) Report. As part of the 91-page document the company described its efforts in 2015 to improving these components.
Food safety is a top priority for Hershey. In order to continue and advance safety standards across the entire company, Hershey has established a new safety training program, mandatory for every employee. As of 2015, 87% of employees completed the training, a process that covers the entire product life cycle, from product design to consumer shelf, and is available in six languages. In 2016, Hershey will launch a new initiative in the training program to raise awareness of and educate employees about allergens.
In the report, Hershey reiterated its continued compliance with changing food safety and labeling requirements. The company’s Product Excellence Program (P.E.P.) defines food safety, food quality and regulatory compliance requirements for the entire company. P.E.P. incorporates Global Food Safety Initiative (G.F.S.I.) standards, and has obtained G.F.S.I. certification in one joint-venture and 16 wholly owned facilities. The program also is configured to identify and mitigate product quality or safety risks. About 81% of Hershey’s current contract manufacturers and co-packers globally, and 93% of United States locations, have attained certification. G.F.S.I. certification is a condition for future business of manufacturers and co-packers who have yet to receive certification with the company.
Hershey also utilized elements of the P.E.P. in a review of and commentary on the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act. One aspect of the new legislation requires produce farmers and food importers to begin to prevent food safety problems before they occur. Hershey has taken steps toward adhering to the Affordable Care Act requirements relating to providing calorie and nutritional information on vending machines carrying Hershey products.
In the C.S.R. report, Hershey emphasized its commitment to transparency of its products’ nutritional and ingredient information.
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food,” Hershey said. “Hershey is providing transparent information about the nutrition and ingredient content of our products.”
In order to increase transparency of its products, Hershey has increased consumer interaction and utilized feedback to influence its methods. One instance of consumer engagement impact was through Hershey’s simple planning strategy, where consumers established which ingredients were of most concern to them, how they defined transparency, and what they rely on to learn more about products. The collection of consumer feedback on the questions led to the development of SmartLabel, according to the report. SmartLabel utilizes Quick Reader (Q.R.) codes on product packaging to provide consumers easily accessible information regarding nutritional and ingredient information. The same information may be found on-line for those without a smartphone.
Hershey has utilized the internet in many other ways to increase transparency. The company provides the resources to educate consumers on its ingredients by providing an extensive glossary that is available on-line with information on all of Hershey’s ingredients. Additionally, on its web site under the ingredient information section Hershey provides information regarding the specific ingredient’s uses, safety and sources.Hershey also has committed to providing better, simpler ingredients to improve food quality, while adhering to consumer trends and preferences. The company has responded to some consumers’ preference to avoid bioengineered ingredients by developing a range of products without these ingredients. This comes despite Hershey’s acknowledgement and agreement with the broad scientific consensus that bioengineered ingredients are safe to eat. Additionally, Hershey emphasized that it will work to comply with the new F.D.A. Nutrition Facts label for packaged goods requiring the amounts of total sugars and added sugars, in grams, with added sugars per cent Daily Value listed as well. Hershey also has increased its on-the-go protein portfolio with the acquisition of Krave Jerky and introduction of snack sized SoFit products.