Case Study: Hershey's Gen Z Relevance Project

Hershey® wanted product ideas that would resonate with Gen Z. The project required that we develop innovative ideas that would widen the range of its existing product lines—without requiring years of product development, millions of dollars to implement, a revamp of the brand’s current manufacturing assets, or the introduction of new supply chains.

The Hershey's project was completed as a joint initiative with an AI-enabled services partner. Using their powerful, proprietary combination of AI technology, IBM Watson, and expert analysts, they provided over 100,000 relevant online consumer conversations and corresponding insights about the brand. As the head of research at my workplace, I lead the team in deciphering how customers feel about the brand, how much brand equity and relevance the brand currently had in the market, and what age/language barriers the brand would need to overcome in order to appeal to their expansion demographic, Gen Z.

Regarding Gen Z: We found that Gen Z enjoys an array of flavor profiles and has a much broader palate than the Baby Boomers or Gen X'ers did when they were under 24. Leading flavors for the new demographic included chocolate, vanilla, marshmallow, citrus, and berry.

Regarding the classic Hershey chocolate bar: the data revealed that baking and s'mores were the two main demand moments for Hershey's chocolate. It indicated that the brand is often top of mind for traditional dessert uses of chocolate but not for general consumption or snacking.

We combined the Gen Z and dessert uses of chocolate data sets to develop product ideas that were engineered to appeal to the Gen Z audience. We used psychographics and our understanding of the younger audience's lifestyle/tastes to bring dessert to the chocolate:

  • The Chocolate Donut Dessert bar: the traditional chocolate bar featuring icing and sprinkles

  • The Mooolicious Bar: the traditional chocolate bar combined with vanilla cream

  • The Techno Chocolate Bar: the traditional chocolate bar featuring a neon blue icing "light effect" all along the edges of the bar

As the head of research, it was my privilege to lead the meeting in which we delivered all of our findings to Hershey's. The findings, the ideas, and the presentation were so powerful that I ended up being invited to present to not only Hershey's but also PepsiCo, Ocean Spray, StarKist Tuna, Premier Nutrition, and Smuckers!