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Apr 20, 2007 12:09 AM

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 ( 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".

    5 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: rworange

          Again, since this thread was yanked out of the archives, I want to address this one statement.

          >The bottom line is you either like the taste and buy it or don't like it.

          I don't care how it tastes. I don't buy any Hershey's products for a single different reason.

          Google => hershey's treatment of foreign student workers

          1. re: pnosko

            As if refusing to pay overtime wasn't bad enough!
            (Yes, amusement park workers are not paid overtime, even if they're pulling 13 hour shifts.).

        2. 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 Reply
          1. re: mpalmer6c

            cacao is basically inedible until you ferment and then cook it for a long time. lotta stuff likes to eat it.

          2. The original comment has been removed
            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.