“At Hershey, it doesn’t matter if you work in an office or on the plant floor, we all own food safety,” Terry O’Day, Chief Supply Chain Officer. This statement isn’t just something the leadership at The Hershey Company says, it’s something that they own and live.
A little more than two years ago, Hershey embarked on a food safety culture journey. Although food safety has always been a priority at Hershey, we sought to embed that fundamental value into our culture and broadly across the organization.
For us, it was a little different as we didn’t have this huge focus on food safety because of a catalyzing incident – we didn’t have a large-scale recall or a burning platform from which to get our top leaders engaged.
What Hershey did have was a commitment to keep its consumers safe, a deep company heritage of bringing goodness to the world, and a team that believed in the importance of employee behaviors related to food safety.
That team worked with peer companies to build the burning platform and benchmark experiences. They engaged all levels of the leadership to include the CEO, J.P. Bilbrey, the COO, Michele Buck, and the CSO, Terry O’Day. They soon found themselves with food safety allies across the company and two years down the road, that journey is still going strong and continues to gain momentum.
Today, every new employee at Hershey, regardless of job title or geography, receives food safety training that engages both their hearts and their minds. The food safety overview tells the story of a Hershey’s Kisses brand chocolate from product design through consumer shelf and shows different ways our employees around the company ensure the safety of every product our consumers unwrap. They also learn about allergens through a talk with a Hershey employee family with a severely food allergic daughter.
Making food safety meaningful and helping to personalize not only the importance of the topics, but the roles of our employees in the bigger picture is integral to ensuring good food safety behaviors everywhere around the world.
At Hershey, you can see food safety across the supply chain and beyond. The message is now part of our internal company events and is starting to be driven by areas outside the food safety and quality group.
Since we embarked on the journey, capital investment for food safety has increased to allow for more proactive risk mitigation and overall employee awareness and understanding of their roles related to food safety have increased. Outside the company, we are being recognized by industry groups and our peers as leaders in food safety culture.
In collaboration with GFSI, we have been able to advance thought leadership in multiple ways. I was honored to present our journey at the Berlin Global Food Safety Conference with some notable peers including Danone, Wegmans, Nestle, and Accenture. Megan Guilford, our Senior Manager of Food Safety Culture, sits on the GFSI Technical Working Group that’s driving food safety culture globally. Our team is very happy with the progress so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds!
Without leadership support of food safety, these results would not have been possible. This is why I am proud to have J.P. Bilbrey as part of the CEO panel at the Global Food Safety Conference in Houston. With J.P.’s unique experiences from working with President Obama, running a $7 billion company, and serving as chairman of GMA, he will undoubtedly provide a perspective on food safety we can all learn from.