Hershey's "White Sheep" Brand--Scharffen Berger

The news hasn’t been good for Hershey. Sure, it is an iconic brand. Part of America. But based on poor financial results, it appears that America’s chocolate tooth is paying increasing attention to the little man in the scale. Buyers of Hershey chocolate products simply appear to be buying less. What are they buying?

People who like (or love) chocolate appear willing to spend a bit more on it than what the typical Hershey bar costs. The Whole Foods crowd, for example, seems perfectly willing to dish out for premium brands like Scharffen Berger, a decade-old chocolatier in California.

The last time I stopped in to Hershey’s Times Square store, a study in brilliant merchandising and in how much people love chocolate, I saw Scharffen Berger in a display. That’s because Hershey owns Scharffen Berger, which it bought a couple of years ago.

Scharffen Berger chocolate is really excellent. It can cost about $3.00 for a small brick with roughly half the mass of a Hershey bar. I like the dark chocolate.

What I find interesting in this is that when I go to the Scharffen Berger website, I find no connection to Hershey. Not even in the Our Company section. I also see that the site indicates that it is a division of the Artisan Confections Company. And that, of course, is part of Hershey. But we don’t know that from the website.

This is a case of a company acting a little delusional. Google Scharffen Berger, and the first hits that come up after the homepage are references to Hershey buying it. Duh.

To my taste, the quality and appeal of Scharffen Berger has not been hurt since Hershey bought the small company. But I do find it a smidge dishonest to try and conceal the fact that the company is owned by the big bad mass-market big-batch chocolate company in Central Pennsylvania.

There must be a buzz name for this sort of thing. How about “White Sheep” brands;” meaning they are child brands of a big company that the big company knows have better images than they do, so they don’t burden their communications with references to parentage.

While Scharffen Berger is in Berkeley, Ca, Hershey, after all, is in the shadow of Three Mile Island. It must be an image thing.

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