Hershey plans to make up to 45,000 face masks a day
Hershey Co. says it is committing $1 million to set up a new manufacturing line that will make facemasks, as the snack marketer looks for a way to support efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
The maker of brands including Hershey chocolate bars, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Twizzlers and Pirate’s Booty says the new line should be up and running near the end of May. The line will be capable of producing up to 45,000 masks per day, Hershey said.
The move makes Hershey the latest marketer to revamp its production in order to help out during the pandemic. In March, for example, Ford said it was teaming up with 3M and GE Healthcare to make respirators and ventilators, respectively. And General Mills earlier this month said several of its plants that usually support its foodservice business, which sells to schools and restaurants, are now making food that is being sent directly to Feeding America.
“Supporting our communities in difficult times is part of our legacy, and an important value that our current employees share,” Hershey President and CEO Michele Buck said in a statement. “From the building projects that created local jobs during the Great Depression, to producing military rations during World War II, we take great pride in making a difference where we can.”
Hershey’s mask-making announcement comes a day after the snack maker reported a first-quarter profit that came in below Wall Street’s expectations and withdrew its 2020 financial forecast. One bright spot at the end of the first quarter was the rise in baking as more people are at home. Hershey said it saw strong increases in sales of its Hershey's syrup, baking chips and cocoa.
Analysts wonder about the company’s performance this quarter as some of the places where Hershey sells its products, including convenience stores and airports, are seeing much lower visits. Plus, venues such as movie theaters and stadiums remain closed.
Looking ahead, there are concerns that demand for the 2020 Halloween season will be reduced. Hershey is planning for Halloween—a huge time for candy sales—working with retailers “to be prepared for a strong recovery, while also making smart choices to mitigate risk if consumer behavior remains impacted,” Buck said on the company’s April 23 conference call.
Hershey’s mask manufacturing project will rely on its own engineering capabilities and its relationships with JR Automation, an equipment manufacturer, and General Motors, which Hershey says is making similar masks.
Hershey said its other COVID-19 efforts include donating warehouse space and supply chain knowledge in order to operate a 22,000-square foot distribution center on the Hershey corporate campus to help move supplies from Penn State Health to its network of providers.