The Hershey Company traces its origins to the 1880s, when Milton S. Hershey founded the Lancaster Caramel Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After seeing German-made chocolate-processing machinery at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, Hershey decided to go into the chocolate business. In 1894 he started a chocolate company that had various confections on the market by the following year. In 1900 he sold the caramel company to a competitor and began the manufacture and sale of milk chocolate bars. Business was so successful that in 1903 Hershey started work on a new factory in Derry Township, Pennsylvania. It eventually became the world’s largest chocolate-manufacturing plant. An unincorporated community called Hershey developed around the factory.
In 1908 the Hershey Chocolate Co. was incorporated, and in 1927 it was reorganized as the Hershey Chocolate Corporation, a publicly traded company. Under the guidance of Milton Hershey—who remained with the company until shortly before his death in 1945—the product line steadily expanded, with the introduction of Kisses (large morsels) in 1907, Milk Chocolate with Almonds in 1908, Mr. Goodbar (with peanuts) in 1925, and Krackel (with crisped rice) in 1938. Hershey contributed to the World War II war effort with Field Ration D, an emergency nutrition bar that did not melt in tropical heat and was intentionally not tasty enough to tempt soldiers to eat it as a snack.
During the 1960s Hershey bought the manufacturer of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and two pasta businesses. In recognition of its diversification, the company was renamed Hershey Foods Corporation in 1968.