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Hershey's "White Sheep" Brand--Scharffen Berger

Posted by: David Kiley on October 19, 2007


The news hasn’t been good for Hershey. Sure, it is an iconic brand. Part of America.
But based on poor financial results, it appears that America’s chocolate tooth is paying increasing attention to the little man in the scale. Buyers of Hershey chocolate products simply appear to be buying less. What are they buying?

People who like (or love) chocolate appear willing to spend a bit more on it than what the typical Hershey bar costs. The Whole Foods crowd, for example, seems perfectly willing to dish out for premium brands like Scharffen Berger, a decade-old chocolatier in California.

The last time I stopped in to Hershey’s Times Square store, a study in brilliant merchandising and in how much people love chocolate, I saw Scharffen Berger in a display. That’s because Hershey owns Scharffen Berger, which it bought a couple of years ago.

Scharffen Berger chocolate is really excellent. It can cost about $3.00 for a small brick with roughly half the mass of a Hershey bar. I like the dark chocolate.

What I find interesting in this is that when I go to the Scharffen Berger website, I find no connection to Hershey. Not even in the Our Company section. I also see that the site indicates that it is a division of the Artisan Confections Company. And that, of course, is part of Hershey. But we don’t know that from the website.

This is a case of a company acting a little delusional. Google Scharffen Berger, and the first hits that come up after the homepage are references to Hershey buying it. Duh.

To my taste, the quality and appeal of Scharffen Berger has not been hurt since Hershey bought the small company. But I do find it a smidge dishonest to try and conceal the fact that the company is owned by the big bad mass-market big-batch chocolate company in Central Pennsylvania.

There must be a buzz name for this sort of thing. How about “White Sheep” brands;” meaning they are child brands of a big company that the big company knows have better images than they do, so they don’t burden their communications with references to parentage.

While Scharffen Berger is in Berkeley, Ca, Hershey, after all, is in the shadow of Three Mile Island. It must be an image thing.

Reader Comments


October 21, 2007 7:33 AM

The consumer may be interested in a variety of chocolate these days but I would suggest the major reason Hershey's sales are down are the closing of plants everywhere and the termination of thousands of employees while building and hiring in Mexico, China and India. I believe Hershey has seriously underestimated the devotion the consumer has toward Hershey, though loved by may for years Hershey has committed the ultimate sin by giving American and Canadian jobs to foreign countries . Most of the other chocolate companies are doing well , only Hershey is doing poorly and only since they announced closures and termination. Hershey is on a slow boat to disaster unless they cease operations in Mexico and leave these Canadaian and American plants open , the consumer public will decide Hershey's fate, lets see if they are smart enough to see the mistakes they have made and fix them before its too late. Personally I will never buy Hershey products made outside of Canada or America but I am only one voice out of millions but the distaste for Hershey is snowballing everywhere.

Rob Bartell

October 22, 2007 5:15 PM

What you say may be true. However, this past weekend I was visiting the Bay area and did a tour of the Scharffen Berger Chocolate plant. During the tour guide's outstanding pre tour chocolate seminar he was quite open about the fact that they and two other gourmet chocolate brands were owned by Hershey's. Obviously, they did not sample any other products than their wonderful chocolate but I don't think that would have been a benefit to either brand. For those visiting the Bay area the plant is located in a former Heinz pickle plant in Emeryville, California next to the bay below Berkeley. Prior to going on the tour we did have breakfast at the Scharffen Bereger Cafe and had one of the best breakfast's ever(my highlight was the killer cup of their Hot Chocolate!!) I give both plant tour and cafe 5 STARS!! Rob Bartell, Stayton, Oregon


October 25, 2007 12:30 PM

It's kind of like how you don't see a Chevy logo prominently displayed on a Corvette.


March 31, 2008 5:54 PM

What do you think about the implementation of ball mill change in scharffenberger?.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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