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The History of Hershey’s Kisses

Hershey’s Kisses are a Valentine’s Day staple that first hit store shelves in 1907. But what many people don’t know is that these iconic candies are essentially a copycat. Back in 1894, Milton Hershey’s competitor Henry Oscar Wilbur debuted a remarkably similar product called the Wilbur Bud. Wilbur’s process was cumbersome and involved molding the chocolate, but Hershey used his expertise in mass-production to create a similar tear-drop-shaped candy straight from the nozzle, making production much faster and more economical. Hershey also wrapped his version in individual foils, whereas Wilbur Buds were unwrapped. These innovations appear to have helped Hershey leave his competition behind when it came to sales, as Hershey’s Kisses became extremely popular. Until 1921, the candies were all hand-wrapped by factory workers. Then an automated wrapping machine was invented and the process became automated. Around the same time, Hershey added his iconic tissue paper plume to the packaging and trademarked it in 1924. In 1962, Hershey became one of the first companies to change its packaging for holiday marketing purposes with red and green foils for Christmas. The pink and red wrappers for Valentine’s Day debuted in 1986. Notably, the company also uses special themed packaging for other holidays like Halloween and Easter. Yet the most marketable part of Hershey’s Kisses — at least around Valentine’s Day — is in fact the name itself. According to Hershey, the name came about because the nozzle makes a kissing sound as it dispenses the chocolates, but many historians point out that the term “kiss” was already in use as a term for candies wrapped with a twist as far back as the 1820s, and the 1856 Webster’s Dictionary even defines the word as “a small piece of confectionary.” Because it is such a broad word, the company struggled to trademark the name, but finally succeeded in 2000. In 2014, Hershey’s Kisses were the fourth most popular candy sold for Valentine’s Day (and the second-most popular in a category that excludes heart-shaped chocolate boxes). In fact, to meet holiday demand, Hershey produces over 8 million pounds of Kisses! Today, the candies are considered iconic and remain very popular for Valentine’s Day. The company has even expanded the line to include new varieties, including Almond, Dark, Cookies and Cream, and the white chocolate-swirled “Hug.” While Hershey’s Kisses have dominated the market since their introduction back in 1907, it is worth noting that you can also still purchase the original version of these treats, Wilbur Buds.

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