When Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses were introduced in 1907, just four years after Milton S. Hershey built his first chocolate factory, the bite-size candies were wrapped individually by hand.
In 1921 the chocolate makers added the Kiss’s identification plume, the little paper streamer printed “Hershey’s Kisses” that sprouts from the top of the foil wrapping. The company made the name a registered trademark in 1923, and the candy’s size, shape, wrap, and plume became registered trademarks the following year.
At about the same time that the Kiss was patented in the form that it has kept to this day, the company replaced its manual workers with a mechanized “single-channel wrapper.”
This handled the more elaborate wrapping and met increasing demand faster and more cheaply. The present-day “multichannel” Kiss wrapping machines are based on the concept and design of the original system, which was fed by one conveyor belt (single channel).
Another five conveyor belts have been added per machine and other minor modifications made to speed up and otherwise improve performance. The current equipment now wraps approximately 33 million Kisses a day in the company’s two factories in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
How, exactly, does it do this? First, the specially blended melted chocolate is squirted mechanically into uniform Kiss
shapes on wide, continuously moving stainless steel belts that pass through a cooling tunnel for about eighteen minutes. The Kisses emerge in solid form, ready to be wrapped. The rows making up the broad array of Kisses are then separated.
If a Kiss is properly aligned, standing upright on its base, it moves on with the others in single file onto narrow, steep-sided conveyor belts toward the wrapping machines. But if the Kiss has toppled over or is otherwise askew, a little mechanical finger pushes it off the line and it is set upright and mechanically recirculated onto the broad conveyor belt to wait its turn again.
A machine can simultaneously wrap the Kisses delivered to it by twelve such narrow conveyor belts, each of which passes over its own “wrapping chamber.” Perforated squares of wrapping foil, still attached to one another on an unwinding roll but prepared like postage stamps to be torn off easily, are mechanically inserted through a side of a wrapping chamber and centered over its floor just in time to receive a Kiss brought onto it by the conveyor belt.
When the Kiss is in position at the center of the piece of foil, a strip of tissue (the identification plume) is introduced mechanically from above, and at the same time a plunger pushes the Kiss down on the foil with sufficient pressure to tear off the section of foil without damaging foil or chocolate.
The wrapping chamber has a top and bottom section consisting of plastic-like bands of material that rotate in different directions and tighten against the Kiss, firmly twisting the foil around the chocolate. No sooner is the Kiss pressed down and the section of foil detached than the twisting mechanism is activated.
This wraps the foil around the Kiss so that it captures and binds the printed streamer of tissue securely between foil and candy, allowing a jaunty plume to emerge at the top which is automatically cut to the proper length by a mechanical knife. Each step of the process is minutely calibrated to occur within a fraction of a second of those before and after it.
The instant the Kiss is wrapped, the conveyor belt moves it out to be packaged with other Kisses for shipment, and brings along the next candidate. The entire wrapping process has taken about a second.