Spreading Goodness in the Commonwealth Since 1980
The Hershey Company is North America’s leading chocolate producer and a global snacks company. In 2019, the company celebrated the 125th anniversary of producing its iconic brands, including Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher, Ice Breakers, SkinnyPop, and Pirate’s Booty.
Hershey established Hershey Chocolate of Virginia, Inc. in Augusta County in 1980. The Stuarts Draft plant is the company’s second-largest in the United States and primarily produces Hershey’s peanut-based products, such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Over the past 40 years, the company has expanded the operation numerous times, including the addition of a new product line in 2016, new machinery to increase production capacity in 2017, and a $104 million expansion announced in 2019 to add 111,000 square feet for the manufacture of penuche and peanut cream, which will be distributed to other Hershey facilities on the East Coast. The Hershey Company evaluated potential expansion locations nationally and ultimately chose Augusta County for its new Roasting Center of Excellence, creating 65 new jobs.
They didn’t stop there — just after the 2019 announcement, the company again considered locations to increase production capacity. In June 2020, the company announced it will invest an additional $135 million to expand its Stuarts Draft manufacturing operation in Augusta County. The latest expansion will increase production capacity by 90,000 square feet and create 110 additional new jobs.
Hershey currently employs more than 1,000 people in the Commonwealth, with the majority located at its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility. The plant plays a critical role in the company’s growth and the production and delivery of its products to global consumers, so when Hershey began its site selection process, of course Virginia was in the running.
The Virginia Solution
Agricultural Roots and Assets
The Shenandoah Valley’s bounty from its land goes back centuries. Home to four out of five of Virginia’s top agricultural counties, the Valley is the No.1 region in the Commonwealth for total value of agricultural products sold. The region boasts plentiful natural resources, readily trainable talent, and a powerful cluster of employers rooted in food and beverage production. The Shenandoah Valley offers 11 colleges and universities and seven career and technical centers that strengthen the workforce and enrich the cultural vitality of the region. In addition, Interstates 81 and 64 traverse the region, providing an excellent transportation infrastructure and connection to markets north or south, east or west. An inexpensive cost of living and doing business, friendly and quiet communities, and a scenic and unspoiled environment make the Valley a prime location to live and work.
Since Hershey Chocolate of Virginia’s inception in 1980, Augusta County has provided the company a business-friendly environment, strong logistics infrastructure, and skilled labor in food production from within the region.
Hershey, Augusta County
The Shenandoah Valley’s workforce is also boosted by Hershey’s Manufacturing Boot Camp, a two-week paid training that fast-tracks job candidates to top-paying apprenticeships in manufacturing. This custom boot camp is designed to prepare candidates with no previous experience for Hershey’s Industrial Manufacturing Technician apprenticeship program. Training is provided by Hershey experts and supported through a $4 million American Apprenticeship Initiative grant awarded by the U. S. Department of Labor to the Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED is eligible, and participants learn problem-solving and teamwork skills, as well as how to manage personal finances. They also receive hands-on training at Hershey’s production site. Successful candidates can be invited to work additional shifts to build a performance track record and will have priority consideration for direct entry into Hershey’s manufacturing apprenticeship program.
Peanuts! Get Your Peanuts Here!
Virginia’s fertile business climate has spurred Hershey’s growth in the Commonwealth, averaging a new expansion nearly every three years. Besides the right regulatory environment, talent, and competitive incentives, Virginia also offers natural resources in an abundance that eases the production costs of Hershey’s iconic peanut products.
The Southeastern region of the U.S. is ideal for growing peanuts, and the Commonwealth’s peanut production ranks in the top 10 among all U.S. states (USDA’s 2017 National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Economic Research Service). The Stuarts Draft production facility has become essential to the production of Hershey’s most popular peanut products, and the company is able to source its peanuts from Virginia, in addition to Georgia and Texas. While the company is renowned for its chocolate bars and Hershey’s Kisses, the Augusta County operation produces 15 popular peanut-product brands, including Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Reese’s Take 5, WHATCHAMACALLIT chocolate bars, flavor-filled Hershey’s Kisses, and Reese’s Pieces.
Home Sweet Home
The 2020 announcement — just one year after Hershey’s most recent expansion — represents the 10th expansion and largest investment yet in the Stuarts Draft campus, again increasing manufacturing capacity for the products everyone around the world knows and loves.
The Shenandoah Valley has been an excellent place for Hershey to do business and be a part of the community for nearly 40 years now. We are proud to continue to invest and grow in an area that gives our employees a great place to live and work. Increasingly, Augusta County and Virginia are critical to our company’s growth and ability to deliver iconic and beloved products to consumers around the world.
Jason Reiman Senior Vice President & Chief Supply Chain Officer, The Hershey Company
The Hershey Company was founded on the principle of making people happy. Augusta County is nestled at the foot of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains — a culturally vibrant, economically diverse area offering outdoor recreation, agritourism businesses, an array of popular arts venues and historic sites, top educational institutions, and a mix of manufacturing and service industries. These assets combine to make the region a perfect fit for the company’s core values, and Hershey prioritizes giving back to the community by providing its employees with great benefits, excellent training, and a sweet quality of life in Virginia.