When people talk about chocolate in the States it is a pretty safe bet they will be talking about Hershey's chocolate. Hershey's has become as synonymous with the candy as Kellogg's have with breakfast cereals.
Why is this? Why Hershey's as opposed to any other chocolate manufacturer in America? They are innovators and have been since Milton Hershey created the company in 1894. You only have to take a look at their extensive range of chocolate bars and chocolate related products to see that.
The first product was a chocolate covered caramel. The latest product with Hershey's branding is Hershey's Cookies and Creme bar introduced in 1994. In between there have been many, many more but perhaps the most famous is Hershey's Kisses, little drops of chocolate wrapped in silver foil and sold in bags. There are few people in the world, let alone the States, that haven't at least heard of Kisses.
Over the years Hershey has introduced many Hershey branded products, many of which are still in production today. These include Mr Goodbar, combining chocolate and peanuts, Hershey's Milk Chocolate, a plain milk chocolate bar also available in dark chocolate, or with almonds, and a few other varieties too.
Under the same brand name the company has also launched related products, like syrup for making chocolate milk, dessert toppings, cocoa powder, milkshakes and baking chocolate.
Of course, clever marketing has helped Hershey's stay on top, from the strong, instantly recognisable brand logo through advertising to what could be considered appreciated 'charity work'.
A prime example of this last effort is the company's production and supply of over one billion chocolate bars as rations for American troops during the Second World War. A wonderful gesture but also, perhaps cynically, a fantastic way of cementing the brand name in the minds of young men who would return home looking for Hershey's in peacetime.
The current Hershey's range has a more modern look. Air Delight is an air bubble filled bar like the Aero in the UK, Drops are round, almost UFO-like pieces of milk chocolate and Hershey's Miniatures provide bite sized pieces of most of the current range of bars.
However, in order to become truly dominant, the company has also introduced products under different brand names, most notable Reese's. Like Hershey's Kisses, there can be hardly anyone that hasn't at least heard of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
The Reese's range doesn't end there though. Yes, all of them provide a combination of peanut butter and chocolate but there are innovations here too. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, wafer bars, peanut butter, chocolate and nuts, cremes, crunchy versions and crispy versions. Not to mention the simple but remarkably successful tactic of offering the original Peanut Butter Cups in miniature and larger sizes.
The Hershey company was founded on innovation, when Milton combined chocolate and caramel, and it has never lost that ability to create something new and keep itself at the forefront of not only the American candy market but the minds of an entire nation and beyond too.