HAZLE TWP. — The Hershey Company broke ground Friday morning on a $60 million expansion of its Kit Kat manufacturing line here that will bring 111 new jobs and position the iconic candy bar to become the chocolate company’s next billion-dollar brand.
“Our plant here in Hazleton has long been a high-performing and valued facility,” said Todd Tillemans, president of Hershey’s U.S. business. “It was clear our manufacturing investment should be made here.”
State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, said the new jobs will bring the total number of employees at the plant, which manufactures Cadbury, Caramello and Kit Kat products, to over 580.
The new Hazle Township jobs are expected to pay between $17 and $22 per hour, based on experience, company officials said, and will include production operators, HVAC specialists, maintenance mechanics and controls specialists.
Officials expect the addition will be complete by the end of 2018.
Rick Camacho, chief supply chain officer for the company. said the new, expanded line will increase the number of Kit Kats produced daily dramatically — from the current 240,000 per day to 390,000 per day.
Range of benefits
Job applications are now being accepted, and that will continue as the expansion project progresses, company officials said.
The company will offer a sign-on bonus for the maintenance roles and day-one benefits that include medical, dental, vision, disability, life insurance, and other supplemental options. Also included will be a 401k with an employer match, a stock purchase program, and tuition reimbursement.
“And they are good-paying, union, family-sustaining manufacturing jobs,” Yudichak said. “I salute the Hershey Corporation and its UFCW workers who, together, have made Hershey Hazleton the gold standard in the American manufacturing industry.”
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding thanked Hershey for its commitment to the state.
“First of all, anybody who offers chocolate is a great host,” Redding said. “Today represents a great convergence of science, skills, raw product and an amazing corporate reputation. That’s what we are celebrating today. This is is not just about the product.”
Kit Kat’s success
Based in Dauphin County, Hershey employs 18,000 worldwide. The company has more than 80 brands around the world that drive more than $7.5 billion in annual revenues, including such iconic names as Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kat, Jolly Rancher, Ice Breakers and SkinnyPop. Despite efforts to expand its global presence in recent years, particularly in China, Hershey continues to generate nearly 90 percent of its revenue from U.S. candy sales, a recent Bloomberg news report pointed out.
Plant manager Stephen Knight said Kit Kat is a complex candy bar to produce. It is made from layers of wafer sticks, alternating with sweet filling and covered in chocolate.
It’s also one of the company’s most popular products.
Tillemans said Kit Kat sales have grown steadily in recent years, and Hershey needs additional manufacturing capacity to meet the demand. The Hazle Township expansion will increase Kit Kat production by some 36 percent, officials said, though they did not say how many bars are currently produced.
In addition to its headquarters and manufacturing plants in the Hershey area, the company’s Pennsylvania footprint also includes the Hazle Township plant and another site in Lancaster County.
Yudichak said the Hershey facility is a major part of a thriving manufacturing sector in Northeastern Pennsylvania — from Hazleton to Pittston and all along the Interstate 81 corridor, with more than 15,000 manufacturing jobs.
Located in the Humboldt Industrial Park, off Interstate 81 outside the city of Hazleton, the plant sits on 28.5 acres and is assessed at $4.5 million, according to Luzerne County tax records. Hershey officials last year received a $1.54 million assessment reduction after successfully challenging their assessment with county officials.
“I have already witnessed the pride and integrity with which people conduct their work,” Tillemans said. “Being here underscores for me what a special company Hershey is. It’s because of the dedicated people at Hazleton that we have the fuel to make this investment to propel Hershey into the future.
“We are synonymous with high-quality, great-tasting snacks,” Tillemans added. “That starts on our manufacturing floor.”