- Hershey’s VC arm, C7 Ventures, will take a minority investment in New York-based Blue Stripes Cacao Shop and Ireland-based Fulfil protein bars. Financial details were not disclosed.
- Fulfil produces high-protein, vitamin fortified nutrition bars in the UK and Ireland. Blue Stripes Cacao Shop is an eatery concept founded by Oded Brenner, creator of chocolate restaurant Max Brenner Chocolate Bar.
- “As we continue to expand our snacking portfolio, our innovation agenda takes a balanced approach across investing in core brands and experimenting with new business models,” Hershey’s Chief Growth Officer Mary Beth West said in a statement.
In its search to bring more moments of Hershey-fueled goodness to consumers, the Pennsylvania-based chocolate company is moving deeper into the snacking category.
Though things have been quiet for nearly a year, there was little doubt that M&A would continue to play a major role in the company's growth strategy. These appear to be the first investments from the confectionery giant's venture fund.
While Hershey is working to broaden its reach outside of sweets, it has made it clear that it has not forgotten about its molten chocolatey core that made the company famous. From updating candy wrappers to diversifying its classic Reese’s cup with new variations, the Pennsylvania company searches for ways to convince customers to buy more sweets.
Fulfil bars fit squarely into Hershey’s quest to amplify its better-for-you snacking portfolio, but with a twist. On its website, the brand says it makes protein-packed and low sugar "chocolate bars." This product honors Hershey's roots, and the Fulfil bars speak to consumers’ desire for a little indulgence with flavors that include Chocolate Salted Caramel, Triple Choc Delux and Chocolate Hazelnut Whip.
As for the investment in Blue Stripes Cacao Shop, Hershey’s choice clearly speaks more to those wanting to indulge. The cafe and shop provide a place to connect visitors to chocolate, as well as a lab where innovations in chocolate and cacao beans are always being dreamed up and tested on customers. The store sources cacao from around the world, so it would make sense for some Hershey products and ideas to find their way onto the menu. It would look good for the brand to be featured alongside other sustainably sourced and diverse chocolate options used to create sweet treats on the spot for customers. Having a stake in a business that is known for taking chocolate and cacao to new heights is also invaluable for a company that made its name and reputation with confections.
Earlier this year, Hershey’s CEO Michele Buck told Food Dive if the company did not grow beyond its signature sweets, it would be "missing an opportunity" to reach more consumers. Many people are changing not only how and where they eat, but are also turning to better-for-you products. To answer consumer demand, Buck led the $1.6 billion acquisition of SkinnyPop parent company Amplify Snack Brands. The company also spent $420 million to acquire better-for-you snack maker Pirate Brands — which makes Pirate's Booty, Smart Puffs and Original Tings.
Although Hershey’s did not explicitly announce its plans for Fulfil and Blue Stripes, these investments echo the earlier patterns that Hershey followed when acquiring both Amplify and Pirate Brands. They produce on-the-go, better-for-you products that have an indulgent side. This particular investment blend shows the company’s commitment to doubling down its focus on investing in snacking and better-for-you products, but not giving up on its core candy operations.