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Is a Hershey’s chocolate really chocolate?

First…about Hershey’s regular chocolate candy bar.
My understanding of Hershey's is that during their manufacturing process the cocoa solids (the actual chocolate) are separated from the cocoa butter. These cocoa solids are dehydrated and become cocoa powder (so it's no longer chocolate). To form chocolate candy bars, the cocoa powder is then combined with some of the cocoa butter (flavorings, preservatives added along the way). So the “chocolate” is disassembled then re-assembled into a new form.

Is my understanding correct? Can this be called true chocolate? Technically, the reference seems to be “chocolate candy,” which is not classified chocolate. The industry insiders to whom I’ve spoken do not refer to Hershey’s candy as “chocolate.”

Another question: what chemicals are using to process the chocolate solids into cocoa powder. At least it’s not alkali processing, but what?

With Hershey’s Kisses, the quality seems to be less than the candy bar. With the Special Dark it’s slightly better, perhaps the result of a higher-quality cacoa bean (something better than the cheap forastero) and more care in its manufacture. True?

In September 2006, a press release (http://www.newstarget.com/020338.html) stated that Hershey’s would be using real cacoa for the first time in its manufacturing of Cacoa Reserve products.

A thorough search of Hershey’s website comes up with marketing copy, and ingredient listings so ambiguous as to be misleading. Hershey’s is known to be secretive about their actual manufacturing process, and about what preservatives/chemicals are used, but of course, they would be -- we’re dealing with an icon of American culture and billions of dollars in product sales.

Not that I eat Hershey’s – I enjoyed it as a kid but have now moved on to the European/Venezuelan/Central-South American brands, but I’m still curious about this mainstay of American candy. Please help me understand.

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  1. It would be helpful if you included how Hershey's processing differs from that of any other chocolate maker.

    The milk chocolate uses chocolate liquor as does do other chocolate makers. As Hershey's states ...

    "Chocolate or chocolate liquor is produced by grinding cocoa beans smooth into a liquid state. This chocolate can be sold as unsweetened chocolate or baking chocolate or used to make other chocolate types such as milk chocolate, sweet chocolate, or semisweet chocolate. "

    There is also a wealth of information on the Hershey site about how they make chocolate including this detailed tour that spans selecting cacoa to the finished product.

    I believe this was brought up in another thread. In fact, a milk chocolate like Callebaut uses dried milk rather than real cream and milk in their chocolate as Hershey's does.

    Is the plain old supermarket bar the best in the world? No. Hershey's is mass-produced and one dimensional. The new line is a move into a boutique chocolate.

    Hershey's is a good company from everything I've ever read.

    It has always treated its employees well and given back to the community. It is currently working to improve the lives of cacoa farmers and promote sustainablity.

    It is a mega-business and all the bad that comes with that probably doesn't elude Hershey's. However, I'm not sure why the attempt to discredit them with nothing more than a pr link and not how they differ from other chocolate makers. Secrecy? Does anyone know what the secret recipe is for KFC? There are tons of examples of corporations where few people know the details. Companies keep certain info private to keep their product unique.

    As a little kid I remember taking the Hershey's tour. It was in a time long before chemicals and preservatives in the US food supply became standard. In those days, there was real food in food. Even then, Hershey said that certain parts of the manufacturing process were their 'secret' and to protect themselves from competitors we wouldn't see the entire process.

    There is a link on the site to contact the company for questions not answered on the site. I have used it in the past and found Hershey's helpful and a lot more responsive than most companies.

    I would like to see something in print rather than vague references to "industry insiders".

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      "In fact, a milk chocolate like Callebaut uses dried milk rather than real cream and milk in their chocolate as Hershey's does."

      You can't make milk chocolate without using dried milk. Chocolate is mainly oil (cocoa butter) and milk/cream is mainly water, and they really don't want to combine. Figuring out how to eliminate the water content of milk to make milk chocolate is Henri Nestlé’s claim to fame, and what inspired Hershey to make milk chocolate in America.

      So even though Hershey's *says* they use real milk and cream, they use a dehydrated form of it. I believe it's the same with chocolate liquor, also listed as an ingredient. Hershey’s starts with that, but that’s not what ends up in the final product -- cocoa powder is. That's what I meant about the website copy/ingredients listing being misleading, as manufacturers' marketing/pr copy sometimes is -- it gets Disney-ized.

      That’s also what I was referring to as being secretive (not the best choice of word) when I meant something more like “less than forthcoming.” I wasn’t referring to a proprietary manufacturing process or recipe like KFC or Coca-Cola.

      It's the cocoa powder re-mixed with cocoa butter thing that I'm trying to get at here. Is that technically chocolate?

      High-quality chocolate manufacturers use more expensive and ultimately more flavorful cacao -- criollo vs. the cheaper, less flavorful forastero, for example -- and their chocolate is conched for much longer improving the texture and other sensory qualities, to name just a couple of differences between them and Hershey’s. Most striking is that these high-end manufacturers do not dehydrate the chocolate into powder -- they keep the chocolate intact, close to its original form.

      I've read your posts about Hershey's, rworange, and I know you like it. I hope you will continue to enjoy it as well as taste other chocolate. Please don't interpret my post as a personal attack, as it seems you may have, or my efforts here to "discredit" Hershey's -- Hershey's does what it does.

      You obviously have a zeal for research, so I’d like to ask you to join me in the information search. I'm willing to learn here, and have my information corrected or updated, as I hope you will be.

      So back to the question: Is Hershey's real chocolate? Can cocoa powder mixed with cocoa butter be called chocolate? Is it even technically classified as chocolate?

      1. re: maria lorraine

        No personal attack taken. I hope someone more knowledgeable than I can answer your question.

        My only allegiance to Hershey's is so many people are very condensending about it. It isn't high quality, but it is good for its class in the US.

        As to technically, well the FDA and other countries world-wide allow Hershey;s to call it chocolate. The bottom line is you either like the taste and buy it or don't like it. Even if all your questions are answered, you don't buy Hershey's because you don't like the taste as much as other chocolate.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          I think you need to take a tour. Hersheys (and Cadbury) start with whole, raw ingredients including cacoa nibs and whole milk. During the manufacturing process the the product is roasted, dried, melted, blended, etc. This is the way "real chocolate" has been made for mass consumption for over 100 years.

      2. For a person who didn't grow up eating Hersheys, taste-wise it's not chocolate in my book.

        2 Replies
        1. re: welle

          For a person who did grow up eating Hersheys and now knows what else is out there, it's not chocolate either ;)

          1. re: pamalamb

            Real or not, I hate it so much it's almost like smelling rancid oil. Even if I plug my nose, the nasty texture and throat burning sweetness are almost enough to make me angry. Hopefully in your search you will find out the source of its foulness. It's truly in a class all by itself.

        2. Well, according to a recent Los Angeles Times, article, all chocolate starts out being groun (the FDA agrees).

          >It's all basically made the same way: cacao pods are fermented and then roasted >and ground into a fine paste that can be separated into two components: cacao >solids (commonly called cocoa powder) and cocoa butter. Each chocolatier uses >different proportions but generally blends sugar, cocoa solids and cocoa butter plus >the optional ingredients — emulsifiers, flavors (typically vanilla) and milk solids (to make milk chocolate) — and molds that into a chocolate bar


          1. I believe the "real cacao" they're referring to in the article about Cacao Reserve is that some products will contain cacao (or cocao) nibs.

            The big issue with calling Hershey's standard chocolate "real" is that it does not use a lot of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, ... there's a lot of sugar in there and a lot of milk. The standards in Europe are a bit higher. You can also get higher cacao milk chocolate right here in the states as well. The cacao chosen for the bars in the first place has as much to do with the flavor as the amount of it. Just like bad coffee, there are some bad beans out there.

            Some smaller manufacturers like Scharffen Berger (also owned by Hershey's) use cocoa liquor (the ground beans) as their base. Most mass-manufactured chocolate is made with both cocoa liquor and added cocoa butter and cocoa solids.

            If you ever get a chance, visit the Scharffen Berger or Theo factories for their tours - it's just awesome to see them start with beans and then poof, a chocolate bar comes out at the other end!

            5 Replies
            1. re: typetive

              Thanks, typetive, for this and all your recent posts re choc and the FDA. Read through many links on your site, Is it your understanding Hershey's uses cocoa powder as its base? (Granted the process starts with cacao nibs.) I've read they separate the choc solids from the cocoa butter, then dehydrate the choc. (mixed with milk and sugar) to form "crumb." Perhaps dehydrating the choc and milk separately before combining them. Is any choc liquor (meaning, choc solids with cocoa butter intact) at all used in the final product or is it just cocoa powder?

              1. re: maria lorraine


                I refer you to the discussion of crumb, which is formed from chocolate liquor, sugar and milk. Not cocoa powder. Nice try.

                1. re: mlgb

                  Thanks, mlgb, anything that furthers understanding. Hershey's says (discovery tour link above) that they dry the milk and sugar, then add the chocolate liquor and dry that into a "brown powder called chocolate crumb." Your Penn State definition of crumb says that it is less than 1% liquid, so it is definitely a powder, and this dovetails with what Hershey's itself says. Perhaps not cocoa powder, but certainly a powder. Thanks for the link. Maybe that's what I've been trying to figure out all this time.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Actually, I've seen crumb and it is not a powder. It looks a bit like a sponge, a dried out light brown cake.

                    1. re: mlgb

                      Hershey's calls their crumb a powder on their website. Do you disagree with how they describe their own product? Certainly, powders can come in cake form -- think makeup: a compact of pressed powder.

                      Also, the FDA Standards of Identity say choc liquor in the US can be cocoa powder. Go to the FDA and Hershey's websites to learn more.

            2. No question in Jfood's book. IT IS ABSOLUTELY CHOCOLATE.

              Sorry to scream but this is way beyond silly. People may like Hershey's, not like Hershey's but at the end of the day, to paraphrase Freud, "Sometimes a chocolate bar is just a chocolate bar."

              I am glad that noone has moved this discussion to the how can anyone eat that stuff so i do not have to point to the food snobbery discussion of a few weeks ago. Close to the line is "Not that I eat Hershey's" too bad ML, Jfood likes it and a bag of kisses is one of my favorites.

              Personally i do not give a hoot if the process brings the stuff to powder form and then reconstitutes, nor do i care if it is profitable to Hershey's (I hope so so they keep making it).

              12 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Amen! There are many kinds of chocolate, just like there are many kinds of cheese. Eat what you like. Don't judge other people if they like something you don't.

                1. re: jfood

                  Thank you. This is along the lines of people declaring that "what Starbucks makes isn't coffee" and other absurdities. Everyone has their tastes, but there isn't a need to redefine things if you don't happen to like them. It is sufficient to say "its bad chocolate in my opinion."

                  I happen to think that a Hershey bar with Almonds is one of the happier things going.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Jfood, my curiosity about Hershey’s was not intended to insult anyone who enjoys it.

                    We all have our personal preferences in food, especially when it comes to indulgence foods. I’m not at all a member of the food police: Please eat what you like, any form of candy, produce, fast food, healthy food, junk food, ethnic food, in any quantity you like, prepared how you like. I’m not at all here to judge you.

                    I said this early on: "I hope you will continue to enjoy it."

                    What I was curious about is how Hershey’s was actually made, not to judge anyone who ate it.

                    My post grew out of two current discussions on this board. First, would the quality of Scharffenberger chocolate bars change now that SB is owned by Hershey’s? And second, in about five separate threads, should the FDA allow chocolate manufacturers to substitute vegetable oil for cocoa butter? (Similar to discussions on trans fat.)

                    That caused me to wonder what was actually in a Hershey’s chocolate bar – what were the ingredients, how was it made. I knew something was different from other chocolate bars, but what, and how does it get that way?

                    One of the things I’ve learned in this thread is that folks who enjoy Hershey’s have experienced others being condescending or critical about their choice. There’s a sensitivity there – bits of snarkiness have revealed that. My quest for information -- especially when ingredient lists seem misleading -- was misconstrued as attacking a beloved product or attacking someone who enjoys it.

                    I don’t think there’s a problem taking a look at Hershey’s ingredients and manufacturing. It’s good foodie info, a la Shirley Corriher, Alton Brown and Harold McGee. We can know the fat grams and calories of a Big Mac, and still enjoy eating one. It’s like Velveeta for me – I can love it in mac ‘n’ cheese even though, in the cheese food chain, it’s probably neoplastic ooze loaded with preservatives. Pretty amazing how Velveeta becomes what it becomes, with some fascinating food chemistry involving protein molecules and emulsification – just like milk chocolate. Great food chemistry/manufacturing discussion of Velveeta here:

                    Likewise, it’s possible to know what’s in a Hershey’s bar and still enjoy one.
                    Or, does knowing diminish one’s enjoyment of it? Is that what’s at the center of this?

                    Yes, Hershey’s is called chocolate. My question, though, *all along* has been different: does a Hershey’s chocolate bar meet the *industry definition* for chocolate, both here and abroad, where there are different standards? When melted chocolate solids are dehydrated into powder, from an industry standpoint, is that still considered chocolate?

                    I believe these are legitimate questions, though it seems asking them has p.o.'d some 'hounds.

                    Jfood, it’s OK for you to not be interested in this ingredients/chemistry/manufacturing/terminology stuff, just like it’s OK for me to be curious about these things.

                    A Hershey’s candy bar is an American icon, like Campbell's Soup. Milton Hershey’s idea of bringing Nestle’s invention of milk chocolate (not an easy thing, BTW) to America and creating the candy bar is the stuff of history, innovative marketing and manufacturing.

                    Folks have grown up with Hershey’s, eaten it as a kid, sought it for Halloween (all true for me), and if someone wants to eat IT -- or anything else -- fast food, weird food, different food, different candy, I truly believe that is their choice. The same goes for me.

                    So, jfood, please continue to enjoy your Kisses, those from Hershey’s and mrs jfood.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Thanks ML, i am glad it one of those scientific "inquiring minds want to know" sorta questions. :-))

                      When I have some time I might take you up on doing the research on the variying methods and ingredients in chocolate making, as you have definitiely peaked my interest, but alas at present too many theories, too little time. :-(( (still working my brain on the Zuni chicken how come issue).

                      So for today it's kisses from Hershey's and Mrs jfood, and the combo when i can sneak it in as we wonder down to New Orleans for the last stop in the "choose a college tour" for little jfood. :-))

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Sorry for getting your topic derailed. For me, if it had not focused on a brand but the process I wouldn't have chimed in except to have looked up the differences and what defines chocolate as chocolate. There's that white chocolate thread where it seems to me if cocoa butter is used, even in absence of any other part of the cocoa bean it makes it chocolate.

                        If it had been a question on a higher level of what makes chocolate chocolate ... ie artisan chocolate makers like xxx use xxx to make chocolate while candy makers like Hershey or Nestle use xxx. Looking on the Hershey site they xxx.

                        At any rate I sent off some of the questions in this topic to Hershey. If they answer, I'll post back.

                        I always hate when someone derails one of my conversations. I had this one topic when I was asking about eating outside of comfort zones that got derailed into a heated debate about ... so what's wrong with eating chicken tiki masala.

                        So sorry.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Hershey emailed me back assigning me a reference number and an 800 number to call to disuss the questions I had. I really don't care that much. However, maria loraiine, if you are interested in getting info from Hersey's about your questions, send them an email or probably better, give them a call.

                          They are one of the few companies that I've dealt with in the past who get back to you quickly and have been good about answering questions.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Thanks for that, rworange. Appreciate your legwork. I'm working now on researching industry definitions...the FDA's of course are different from the EU's.

                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              OK you and RW got Jfood's interest. Little Jfood's College Steel Wheels Tour ended yesterday, so i can focus again. Could you please post when you hear.

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          Hershey's recently changed some of their manufacturing practices, so I'm not certain what they're doing right now. They used to be bean to bar. Now they buy their cocoa liquor (I think from ADM) who does the roasting and pressing.

                          When they create the cocoa powder they're not really "drying" it so much as extracting the powder from the cocoa butter. One of the main components of cocoa liquor is cocoa butter.

                          In order to get the most consistent product with the exact levels of cocoa butter and cocoa solids and milk solids and sugar, they take all ingredients down to their most basic levels, then recombine them at the consistent proportions.

                          As described above, the cocoa "powder" isn't quite dried (it reminds me of pastry dough as you start to cut in the butter), as the particle size is so fine it'd just blow away at the slightest breeze. Cocoa used in chocolate bars is much finer than the stuff in our cupboards. (I can try to find the micron chart for those things.) So they keep some cocoa butter in the "liquor" or "cocoa powder" so that it is easy to manage (and safe for the workers).

                          I wouldn't doubt that they use cocoa powder if that's what their website says and I don't think it makes much of a difference. It's the size of the cocoa particles (which is controlled by the conching), the quality of the beans and subsequent fermenting then the milk and proportions of sugar, cocoa butter and solids that create the taste and texture of the bar.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Interesting, Maria Lorraine, that you would mention those three in the same breath. Shirley Corriher and Harold McGee are Food Scientists. Alton Brown pays both of them (WELL!) for their information. He's an actor who graduated from cooking school. A very popular colking show host, but hardly a food scientist -- whatever he seems like.

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              Thanks, Chef June. You're absolutely right: SC and HM are the heavy hitters here. What Alton Brown has done, remarkably so, is to popularize food chemistry in his wacky pop way. I threw him in just so folks would recognize where I was coming from in case they weren't familiar with SC or HM.

                        3. No question in my book either. Chocolate or not, I rarely turn down an opportunity to enjoy it.

                          1. In my house it sure is, especially if it's wrapped around crispy wafers, a la Kit Kat.

                            The best part of the Hershey tour? The factory store, complete with broken chocolate covered pretzels at a deep discount.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: QueenB

                              >> The factory store, complete with broken chocolate covered pretzels at a deep discount.

                              Please...no.... I just moved to within driving distance and I have never been.... must resist.... AAAACK!

                              1. re: Jimmy Buffet

                                Sorry! :-)
                                I used to go only once a year, at Christmas. I'd grab a couple bags of those and be happy, happy, happy. I haven't been out there in about three years, so I'm not sure if they still have them. Maybe that will lessen the temptation?

                                1. re: QueenB

                                  I still have the Hershey kiss magnet on my fridge.

                            2. Ohyeah the Hershey Tour. Before all these regulation it was much better. I remember in the mid 60's the workers would toss you a few candies as you toured and you got handfuls of free kisses at the end.

                              One of the worst parts of my newly acquired nut allergies is no more Hershey's w Almonds. I have discovered a new love in candy, the Kitty Kat as little jfoods have named them.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                The BigKat is even better than a regular Kat, IMO.

                                1. re: QueenB

                                  mmmmmmm... kitkats! My favourite candy bar. :) They had wonderful dark chocolate mint ones at christmas time - I could have lived on them!

                              2. I once heard that Hershey didn't advertise. Was that ever so? Is it still so? Good for them.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Sharuf

                                  From their website:


                                  Except for a TV and billboard campaign in Canada in 1964, the company had never really done advertising on a national scale. In 1968, the newly renamed and reorganized Hershey Foods Corporation announced plans for a nationwide consumer advertising campaign spearheaded by the famous Ogilvy & Mather ad agency.

                                  Starting with a Sunday newspaper supplement in July, 1970, followed two months later by television and radio commercials, the campaign was an immediate success. Sales of REESE’S peanut butter cups and HERSHEY’S KISSES Chocolates, in particular, rose dramatically. But while the company today continues to advertise in all media, the quality of our products is still our best form of advertising. Milton Hershey would have liked that.

                                2. I just read (in print but can't remember where)that the big industrial chocolate confectioners are trying ot get the legal definition of chocolate changed in the U.S.so they can make it more cheaply. There is opposition by boutique chocolatiers.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                    Yes, the public comment period with the FDA ends on April 25th; it would allow what is now called "chocolate flavored" (because it lacks cocoa butter) to be called "chocolate". Protest now or forever hold your peace.

                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                      Ahhh, so there was a reason for the original post.

                                    2. I don't know what hersheys does to their chocolate but they've managed to make their milk chocolate taste AWFUL. It doesn't have anything weird on the ingredients list and it's pretty much the same as the ingredients list for any other milk chocolate, but I can always taste a distinct milk powder taste to it, which is something I've loathed since childhood. Their dark chocolate and their 'specialty' chocolates seem to be fine, it's just the 'milk' and 'white' chocolates that taste weird to me.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Kajikit

                                        Countries make their milk chocolates to fit different tastes, and a lot of the flavor profile has to do with how long they cook or cure the milk component when making crumb. So it isn't that surprising that you might prefer some other brands to Hersheys. EG I can tell the English version of Cadburys apart from Hersheys by the malted or caramelized taste. American milk chocolate has a more tart flavor profile.

                                        1. re: Kajikit

                                          Hershey's has always used a somewhat soured milk formulation that allows its milk chocolate to be more durable in the warmer climates (compared to Europe) that prevail in much of the US. That's why most Europeans find the American taste for Hershey's to be odd. It's the chocolate version of Marmite - if you get the taste for it as a child, the liminal experience overwhelms your objective tastebuds.

                                        2. There was an item in a Toronto newspaper today that Hershey is trying to "modernize food standards" by selling as chocolate things that contain artificial sweeteners, any kind of fat, and no cocoa.

                                          1. I went to a chocolate cooking class - yes, a little bit o' heaven. The pastry chef took us through the process of how chocolate is made, from cacao on down. If I remember correctly, all chocolate is made by processing it into a powder and then emulsifying it with a fat. The amount of cacao powder and the type of fat used affects the chocolate quality. I specifically remember him saying the mass-produced ones (a la Hersey) are made with vegetable oil while the higher end ones are made with butter (thus preventing them from being so easily shippable, storable etc). The higher end ones also have more chocolate in them. That's what I remember - awesome class....

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: amyvc

                                              Chocolate can only be made with cocoa butter as the emulsifying fat.

                                              American chocolate, even lowly Hershey's, is made with cocoa butter. (It currently also contains milkfat.)

                                              Using anything in place of cocoa butter means that you're making something else besides chocolate.

                                              If your teacher was from Europe, they do allow the use of up to 5% vegetable oils in their chocolate. (Though the good manufacturers wouldn't dare.)

                                              Chocolate made with cocoa butter is exceptionally stable and storable so long as the temperature is moderated well. (Actually, some vegetable oil substitutes are worse when it comes to shelflife.) Dark chocolate can remain tasty for two years.

                                              1. re: amyvc

                                                Unfortunately, your instructor didn't know the regulations for making chocolate in the United States.

                                                1. re: amyvc

                                                  Maybe it was a candy making class, truffles, etc. Because if not, you should ask for your money back.

                                                  1. re: mlgb

                                                    i should clarify - it was a chocolate COOKING class, not a how-to-make-chocolates class. In other words, we made food items which contained chocolate. I would have to say that the above, incorrect, information must be due to my faulty memory and not the instructor. He was and is an excellent pastry chef who teaches at one of the excellent local cooking schools. So, I gotta get my facts straight. I know there was a part about vegetable oil being a difference between the two chocolates, but I'm sure it's something I need to do a little research on to clarify for myself. Apologies for my faulty memory....

                                                    1. re: amyvc

                                                      "I know there was a part about vegetable oil being a difference between the two chocolates,"

                                                      The difference is that according to the FDA, only one of them can legally be labeled "chocolate." And long may that requirement reign.

                                                      1. re: MacGuffin

                                                        Now that this 7 yr old Zombie thread has been temporarily revived, there's been an immortal TV scene (from last summer, but spoiler alert to anyone who hasn't seen Mad Men but intends to someday) referencing Hershey's that should be impleaded for the record and is relevant because it - in its own way - speaks to liminal taste associations of foods we encounter in our childhoods, even if they mass-produced:


                                                2. No has to have chocolate liquor to be real chocolate.