A Visit To The Hershey Company

July 25, 2014

As you may know from my Instagram feed, I spent Monday and Tuesday in Pennsylvania visiting The Hershey Company! I am a food ambassador for Hershey this year, and couldn’t be more excited to celebrate one of the world’s greatest sources of antioxidants: chocolate! A piece of chocolate after a meal is my all-time favorite dessert (well, maybe it’s tied with buttercream :)). Plus Hershey makes my favorite brand of chocolate: Scharffen Berger! Annnnd I’m the biggest lover of s’mores EV.er!

The partnership kicked off with an immersion day where I, along with a handful of other bloggers, including blog friend Julie, were introduced to the world of chocolate.

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I was up bright and early on Monday morning to catch my flights. Karen stayed with Mazen during the day for the two days I was gone and they shared their own sweet treats together!

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During my layover in Philly (which was 3 hours!) I had a GLORIOUS time at the restaurant, Local, where every seat had an iPad where you could order food and drinks, browse the internet and charge your devices.

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I ordered scrambled eggs with toast and bacon and brought some berries from home to have on the side. {I didn’t touch the potatoes – not my taste.} I stopped in again on my way home and got a glass of wine so I could sit and enjoy the ambiance a second time. What a cool concept!!

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I arrived in Harrisburg around lunchtime and took the shuttle to the Hershey Lodge where we spent the night. My room was not ready yet, so I took the salad I bought at the Philly airport out to the pool deck and worked on blog posts for the afternoon.

Pretty good lookin’ airport salad, don’t you think!? I customized it at Au Bon Pain.

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Upon check in everyone gets a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar, half of which made the perfect dessert!

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I got up to stretch my legs later in the afternoon by walking the grounds. I had plans for a run but since my room wasn’t ready, I thought a walk would be easier to go. The Hershey Lodge even has a mini golf course! If only I’d had a partner to play with a round would have been great fun.

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I met up with Julie and the rest of our group for an early dinner at Devon Seafood Grill. Julie and I talk daily online, so it was so great to see her in person again!

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We sipped wine and enjoyed a wonderful dinner over good conversation, proving how small the world is by making connections with our tablemates with Hillsborough, Charlottesville, and Ocala.

For my first course I had a mixed greens salad that was packed with goodness – goat cheese, tomatoes, cranberries.

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And then these amazzzing crab cakes!! They were served with both a Creole remoulade and a mango tartar sauce. Whipped potatoes on the side! Haven’t had those in ages, and they were so good.

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After dinner we headed to The Hershey Story Museum where we learned about the history of Milton Hershey.

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Xoxo ET!!

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For our dessert, we were served a special single-origin chocolate tasting!

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Tastings of any kind – wine, cheese, chocolate – are my favorite way to enjoy food. You appreciate the flavor so much more when you have a small amount to savor.

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We sipped chocolate from across the world –

Mexico – 66% cacao and tasted acidic and slightly sour

Venezuela – 72% cacao and tasted rich, vanilla and floral

Ghana – 40% cacao and tasted super sweet, thin and nutty

Sao Thome – 70% cacao and tasted a hint sour but very rich with hints of coffee

Tanzania – 75% cacao and was mellow and fudgy

Java – 32% cacao and tasted extremely butterscotchy and bursting with vanilla

My favorite was a tie between Venezuela and Java!

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We headed back to the lodge full of liquid bliss, and Julie and I watched The Bachelorette before bed.

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After a great night’s rest, we were up early for a day packed with confections. But not without breakfast first – eggs, fruit, cinnamon muffin and coffee.

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We spent the morning exploring the Hershey technical center – a giant building filled with test kitchens and sensory evaluation rooms.

This was such a blast for me because there was a lot of overlap between our program and the work I did in food science during my courses as a Registered Dietitian. We covered things like sugar crystallization and the Maillard reaction along with the triangle test and different ways to measure sensory evaluation.

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Our first stop was the chocolate lab where we created our own chocolate bars. First we poured chocolate into molds, then gave them a quick shake to vibrate out the air bubbles, and then chose between a plethora of toppings to create our ideal bars.

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Mine are covered with toffee, nuts and sea salt and a mix of dark and milk chocolate. They were packaged up for us at the end of the trip, and we got to take them home!

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While our bars cooled, we went to the caramel lab to make our own batch of creamy caramel.

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This was a little more intense because of the hot temperatures the caramel had to be cooked, but once it was poured into our own pots we could add our own flavors to customize it. I went with sea salt (obviously!) and almonds.

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We then moved into sensory evaluation with a gelatin tasting.

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We were asked to taste each gelatin and guess the flavor. I was SURE the green one was lime, the yellow lemon, the orange orange and the red cherry. But I only got 1 of the 4 right! The colors played major tricks on my brain. A big lesson on the power of visual cues!

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Another exciting test was to talk about super tasters. Hershey has quite a few staff members who are experts at taste testing. They go through rigorous training to be able to determine if the products are consistent and up to high company standards. We touched our tongues with blue dye and the number of visible taste buds indicated how good our tongues were at taste. Apparently I was the only super taster in the bunch! I have always suspected I am a super taster based on how keen my sense of smell and recognition is. Guess I was sort of right!

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We also toured the test kitchens where Hershey recipes are created.

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And as part of that, we were forced to eat this amazing {gluten-free} chocolate cake. OMG the frosting!! It was the classic Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake and it was incredible – gluten-free and all. (I painfully left half so I would have room for a healthy lunch!)

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From there we went to lunch, which was a lovely salad buffet with salmon, grilled vegetables and yummy rolls.

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We met with a panel of department heads to learn a little more about The Hershey Company’s efforts towards sustainability, responsibility, ingredient sourcing, quality assurance, innovation and product development.

Questions were asked…

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People are quick to assume that large companies are only out to make money, but Hershey truly is taking steps towards improvement and responsibility. The milk that is supplied to their Hershey plant comes from local farms within 100 miles of Hershey, PA and they are the last chocolate company in the US to use real fluid milk in their chocolate (most of the other companies use dried milk). Bravo to that! Moreover, they are working to have 100% of their cacao sustainability certified by third parties by 2020 and responsible and sustainable palm oil tracing as well. The Reese’s plant has a zero-waste-to-landfill program, and the company works with the philanthropic Project Peanut Butter. Good stuff!

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For our last stop of the day we headed to Hershey’s Chocolate World attraction where we rode the famous factory tour ride and explored the giant gift shop full of Hershey goodies.

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As much as I wanted every candy bar, a giant cupcake or a creamy milkshake, I was a bit sweetened out at this point!

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And that’s when we were surprised with our personalized chocolate bars all packaged up. I had to taste more!

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I had a wonderful time immersing myself in chocolate (literally because the shampoo and soap there was cocoa scented!)

Richard // me // Annalise // Jeanette // Cara

Kristy // Julie // Angie // Vanessa // Katrina

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Somebody loved the Reese’s car I brought him <3

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I’m almost ready for s’more!

Disclosure: This blog post and my trip to Hershey, PA were sponsored by The Hershey Company as part of my participation in their Food Ambassador program. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katie @ happygokatie July 25, 2014 at 6:21 am

Wow! That airport salad DOES look amazing. Airports are where I often find it the hardest to eat healthy. I’ll be traveling this weekend, so I’ll be on the lookout for food stops like yours. Glad you had fun in Hershey..and I’m VERY jealous you guys got to make your own chocolate bars.

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2 Livi @ Eat, Pray, Work It Out July 25, 2014 at 6:39 am

Creating my own chocolate bars would be my favorite day! That looks so fun!

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3 Kassidy July 25, 2014 at 7:27 am

Wow, that’s every chocolate lovers dream! Do you know the recipe for the chocolate cake? Because a gluten free chocolate cake like that looks heavenly!

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4 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 8:04 am

It’s being published soon and I’ll try to share

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5 Caroline July 25, 2014 at 7:47 am

Did you enjoy the cocoa shampoo, etc.? I’d wonder if one wouldn’t want to avoid smelling like foodstuffs?

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6 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 8:22 am

I was a little worried about wafringe cocoa as well, but it actually was very subtle

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7 Lea July 25, 2014 at 8:06 am

Looks like a fun trip! That salad bar you guys had looks delicious!

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8 Anele @ Success Along the Weigh July 25, 2014 at 8:08 am

Wow, that looks like the best trip ever! How fun would it to make your very own chocolate bars!? I mean I suppose you could do it at home but nowhere near as fun!

Have a great weekend!

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9 Kamado Jim July 25, 2014 at 8:13 am

Kath, I’m not sure you did those gorgeous looking crab cakes justice…think they need another dozen or so Zs in amazing! :) And making your own chocolate bars, AT Hershey nonetheless! What a trip! Thanks for sharing.

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10 Matt July 25, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hey if you’re reading Healthy Tipping Point then you’re required to eat the potatoes for breakfast

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11 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 9:26 am

Haha!

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12 Andrea July 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm

I can’t believe you don’t like breakfast potatoes….yummmm!

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13 Alex @ Kenzie Life July 25, 2014 at 9:21 am

Ooh what a fun trip! First of all, I used to go to that Au Bon Pain at the Philly airport all.the.time (I used to live in Philly). I have never been to Hershey, PA though! Making your own chocolate and caramel sound so fun (I’m sure it’s not open to the public but still, I’ll settle for living vicariously through this post!) And that cake?! Wow. I’d eat that :)

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14 Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties July 25, 2014 at 9:41 am

What a fun trip! I’d LOVE to make my own chocolate and caramel. The flavors you picked sound awesome! And that chocolate cake looks amazinnngggg! I second the comment above about trying to post the recipe! :)

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15 Joy July 25, 2014 at 10:08 am

I love Hershey chocolate. Very fun to see inside company. What a fun trip!

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16 Catlady July 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

Dream weekend! You will have to tell us how your chocolate bars came out; they look fantastic!

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17 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 10:36 am

They are awesome! Especially the loaded coconut!

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18 Heathers Looking Glass July 25, 2014 at 10:17 am

I love love LOVE Hershey’s chocolate, this looks like an amazing trip! I am a nerd and behind the scenes stuff is so cool.

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19 Jeanette | Jeanette's Healthy Living July 25, 2014 at 10:18 am

Great wrap-up! I think I still smell like chocolate :)

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20 Larissa July 25, 2014 at 10:37 am

This is so cool! I just finished my dietetic internship in Hershey and we had our research rotation at The Hershey Company! Looks like you all had a great time and Scharffen Berger is one of my favorites too :)

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21 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Oh wow – that would be a fun foodservice rotation to do!

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22 Ella July 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

What a fun trip! I think it’s so cool the experiences that companies reach out to give bloggers. And GIRL. Self. Con. Trol. You got it! Haha, I never would have been able to leave half of that chocolate cakey deliciousness on the table! Props to you ;)
http://www.youtube.com/sparklesandsuch26

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23 Kristen July 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

Love Hershey Park! I live close-by, and it is a major attraction for school and church field trips, employer spirit days, etc. Did you hear the 3 cows sing during the Chocolate World ride? That song got stuck in my head the second I the Chocolate World song haha. They had quite the scandal a few years ago because they moved some of their factories and staff to Mexico and closed a few U.S. companies in an effort to cut costs. I actually had a family member that used to work there and she got laid off as a direct result. A few years before that the reformulated their recipes to replace cocoa butter with vegetable oil to cut costs instead of decreasing candy bar sizes or raising prices… so some Hershey’s products are labeled ‘made with chocolate’ instead of ‘chocolate’ because they don’t meet FDA guidelines. I found that super interesting! I still love Hershey, and they do TONS of public outreach in the surrounding community, so I think overall they are a great business. It is still nice to be an informed consumer though! I’m glad you had a good time there- brought back a lot of nostalgia.

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24 Sarah July 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

I went to the Hershey Amusement Park when I was a kid. We also did that Chocolate World attraction tour. I remember getting a super fresh little Hershey’s Kiss at the end. So fun!

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25 Shel@PeachyPalate July 25, 2014 at 11:46 am

Such a fun trip!!! Your bars look awesome!

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26 Nic July 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm

My cousin just got a job working with Project Peanut Butter :) It really is an amazing organization (www.projectpeanutbutter.org/).

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27 Emily @ Life on Food July 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Such fun!! I love the chocolate kiss street lights in Hershey!

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28 Ann July 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

So happy to read this, my parents live 20 minutes from Harrisburg and I’ve visited the factory a few times but had NO idea about the local milk and their efforts to get sustainably certified cocao beans. That is great news!!

This is silly but have you ever noticed you usually elongate words with the consonant instead of the vowel? For instance, you called the crab cakes “amazzzing” instead of amaaaaaaazing haha! It sounds so weird in my head when I read it and you do it a lot! Just something to think about since I thought you might want to know it reads very oddly :)

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29 Casey @ Casey the College Celiac July 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Wow, this looks AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing your adventure – I’ll be dreaming of this chocolate heaven for a while! :)

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30 Laura @ She Eats Well July 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

This is pretty much my dream trip! Growing up my family would say I would make the best Hershey employee because I love the old-school Hershey bar so much! Yum. Looks like you had a great time! Thanks for sharing.

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31 Rachel July 25, 2014 at 2:51 pm

This was a great post, and it piqued my interest (I didn’t know all of the good Hershey was doing), especially the super tasting test. In a cooking class, I found out I was a super taster, but my instructor told me the opposite: that I was extra sensitive to (or rather didn’t like) strong flavors like coffee, dark chocolate, etc, and didn’t enjoy them. I have to say he was spot on ;) My 7 year old nephew and I have the same palette, or so my brother likes to tease me. I have a few other friends whom are super tasters as well, and we share the same sensitivities. I have to admit this is the first I’ve heard of it being a good thing!

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32 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm

She said it can go both ways – some people find bitter to be so strong that they are very picky and others just find everything to be enhanced. I didn’t get to take the bitter-strip test, which I bet I would not get a positive for (since bitter is ok with me..to an extent). I have no idea if the dye test was accurate, but I do have a really keen sense of smell! Maybe I’m just a super smeller : )

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33 Sara July 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm

So what were the flavors of the red, orange, yellow and green? :-)

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34 KathEats July 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Lemon (green), lime (yellow) and two orange!

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35 Jeanie July 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Oh, lucky you! Hershey’s milk chocolate is my favorite chocolate in the world, hands down!

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36 Karen H. July 25, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Loved this post, Kath! Interesting, fun, and delicious :) I am happy to learn that Hershey’s uses local and sustainable ingredients! Time for chocolate…

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37 Anne McCormick July 25, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Dream come true! So cool!

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38 Kaylin @ Enticing Healthy Eating July 25, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Wow, now THAT looks like a food blogger’s dream! How does one become a brand ambassador to an amazing company like Hershey?! Very envious! But you make me want to work hard at what I do and working with my passion (food and nutrition) to make it someday to be a brand ambassador myself!

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39 jonelle July 25, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Wish they didn’t use soy lecithin in their chocolate. I’m terribly allergic to soy and can’t eat their products any more.

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40 Mary July 28, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Try Taza chocolate! It’s soy free and organic (in addition to being vegan and gluten free, and the cacao is sourced sustainably!) I buy it at Whole Foods.

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41 Anne July 26, 2014 at 6:44 am

I’m happy to read about their 2020 goals (palm oil/sustainability…). When it will be 100% fair trade cocoa and organic, I will buy Hersheys. Their are too good brands that already do it so…

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42 Chelsea @ Designs on Dinner July 26, 2014 at 8:37 am

Aww, I remember visiting Hershey, PA with my family when I was young. So fun! I remember the streetlights were Hershey kisses. The build-your-own-chocolate bar is a great idea–yours look delicious!

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43 Rebecca @ it's a nourishing thing July 26, 2014 at 1:10 pm

OMG!! This trip looks like it was amazing! And building your own Hershey Chocolate is so cool!

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44 Julia July 26, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I really loved this post because of your emphasis on how much you ate of the sweets you had available. A whole post explaining how you know to do that would be very interesting to me. I’m trying very hard to eat well and healthfully these days to lose baby weight – three kids in four years- my tendency is to over eat. And in real life constant temptation is there, so seeing you have self-control in a real life scenario is really helpful. Thanks!

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45 Kori July 27, 2014 at 3:34 pm

So awesome!! I would love to experience this one day. Great post!

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46 Anna_PMorgan. July 28, 2014 at 2:48 am

Oh you certainly had a delightful yummilicious day :) Hershey make awesome chocolates! I often visit this wonderful place and the experience is nothing less than a wonder delight. Thanks for sharing this, I am feeling a little hungry now. I wish I could get that healthy airport salad..!

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47 Alexandria July 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm

It was fun for me to read about your time at Hershey! I live right down the road in Lancaster and interned in R&D at the tech center before my dietetic internship. I love the compan,their products, and the town. Glad you had a good time at the sweetest place on Earth!

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48 Danielle July 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

This is awesome. I grew up close to Hershey (about 45 minutes), so Hershey Park was the amusement park of choice growing up. We would ride the chocolate tour just to get free chocolate haha. I actually wanted to work there when I graduated from college, but we ended up moving down south. I’ll always love Hershey though!

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49 Emily July 30, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Alright Philly airport shoutout! That’s great that you had a positive experience at PHL, they’ve been making a lot of changes/renovations recently. I’ll have stop at Local when I’m flying out next. So glad your PA trip overall was a good one. Come visit Philly soon!

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