A Hershey Food Scientist on Being a Foodie, Creating Candy and on Representation in the Food Industry
I have always been fascinated by food. Smells, textures, and of course, tastes. I would consider myself a lifelong foodie! My relationship with food changed after reading the acclaimed novel “Fast Food Nation” for AP English in high school. I quickly began to care less about how my food tasted, and more about what my food was made of and where it came from. The horrors that were revealed about the fast-food industry in the novel moved me to become increasingly interested in nutrition. That following summer, I participated in a high school agricultural apprenticeship program at North Carolina A&T State University. Upon the completion of the program, I decided I would continue my education and study Food Science and Nutrition at the institution that introduced to me to the subject, North Carolina A&T.
As a Junior at NC A&T, I attended the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) Leadership Institute and was hired as a summer intern for The Hershey Company on the spot during their company star-studded career fair. I’m very grateful for the opportunity that TMCF provided for me to connect with Hershey and jump start my career.
Our Research and Development hub is located at the Technical Center in Hershey, PA and is filled with brilliant scientists and subject matter experts from all over. After interning, I officially began my career at The Hershey Company as a Research Scientist after graduating from NC A&T. I have not stopped learning since. When people ask what I do, I tell them “I’m basically Willy Wonka” and it is so true! Working in the lab with chocolate, colors, and flavors is a fun (and messy) job. It is a job that continues to challenge my creativity and exercise my knowledge as a scientist. I have had the opportunity to develop some awesome products, such as Apple Pie Kit Kat, Birthday Cake Kisses and the Salted Caramel Cookie Hershey’s Bar.
As a member of the Chocolate Product Development team, I couldn’t help but notice that most of my colleagues graduated from the same few colleges, interns were recruited from the same few programs, and the diversity of the department lacked overall. Often times industries can be stuck in the cycle of hiring from the same institutions and programs. This ultimately puts companies at a disadvantage with a lack of diversity in thought and practices. I am so grateful that Hershey was able to listen to my concern and take action by making a commitment to influence change and encourage more diversity and inclusion not only in the CPG industry, but in our communities overall. As a company, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, but know we have more work to do.
In December 2020, Hershey announced a $1.5 million investment in the TMCF to establish a scholarship endowment, with the goal to increase that to $3 million over the next ten years. The TMCF Food Science endowment will allow students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with opportunities to provide diversity of thought and grow their careers in the food industry. It is an investment that will continue to help the future of the food industry, create change for underrepresented populations and ultimately create better products for consumers. As an HBCU graduate, I have experienced firsthand the talent that HBCU’s produce and I am so happy to work for a company that is invested in the futures of all.
One pillar of the company’s commitment to make our workplace and our communities more diverse and inclusive is to create more pathways to join Hershey. Creating these pathways for members of the Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities welcomes different experiences and perspectives—it invites the diversity of thought that I mentioned earlier. In our communities, we’re partnering with local organizations like NAACP-ACT SO, The Milton Hershey School and others to continue to advance educational opportunities for underrepresented communities and increase inclusion. In fact, in February 2021, we announced a $50,000 gift to Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center to support the creation of an equity endowment which CMN hopes will ultimately reach a value of $1.8 million. The endowment will provide support to future generations of students from underrepresented groups and help to create equity in health care and scientific discovery.
Whether creating new flavors of beloved products or supporting our communities, our consumers and our people can count on us to show up where they need us to be.