HERSHEY, Pa., May 9, 2006 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- The Hershey Company (HSY) today announced a significant expansion of its health and nutrition initiative to meet increasing consumer demands for healthier products. Additionally, the company announced the most recent results of ongoing studies at Yale University, linking the consumption of hot cocoa to improved cardiovascular function.
New Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition Established
As part of its increasing efforts in the area of healthier snacking, the company announced the establishment of the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition. The Center will direct cutting-edge scientific research to develop products and technologies providing consumers with health benefits in the areas of heart health, weight management, and mental and physical energy. The Center will build upon the science, clinical studies and research work already underway at The Hershey Company.
The establishment of the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition was a recommendation of Hershey's Health & Wellness Advisory Board, a panel of world-class scientists and analysts established in 2005. The Advisory Board is comprised of experts who provide Hershey with key insights in the areas of weight management, cognitive and brain function, nutrigenomics, plant nutrients and metabolism, children's nutrition and eating behavior, personal wellness, government food regulations, and consumer health and wellness behaviors and attitudes.
"Our goal is to redefine the future of snacking by offering consumers products that provide proven health benefits and the superior taste they expect from Hershey," said Tom Hernquist, Senior Vice President, Chief Global Growth Officer. "Our research is validating the significant health benefits of cocoa and snack nuts and, combined with our proven ability to develop and commercialize innovative new products, provides an immense capability to meet the growing consumer demand for healthier products."
The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition is designed to be a significant source of new-product innovation as it draws upon clinical studies and scientific analysis of the health benefits of cocoa, nuts and other natural ingredients. The Center will utilize the company's internal scientific capabilities as well as partnerships formed with internationally known researchers and institutions.
"The Center is a major step forward in the evolution of Hershey's work in the areas of healthier snacking," said Dr. Steven Zeisel, Associate Dean and Professor of Nutrition at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, a member of Hershey's Health & Wellness Advisory Board. "The Center will establish Hershey as a leader in drawing upon scientific research to deliver products consumers can enjoy as truly healthier snack choices."
The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition will focus its research and development efforts in three principal areas:
-- Heart Health. Hershey continues to conduct research into links
between flavanols in cocoa and chocolate and improvements in arterial
function, as well as into the potential health benefits of nuts. The
company is partnering with Yale University, researching the effects of
dark chocolate and cocoa on arterial function and blood pressure. The
company also is evaluating formulas and technologies that deliver
higher levels of antioxidants while reducing fats and sugars.
-- Weight Management. Weight management continues to be a focal point of
Hershey's Health & Wellness Advisory Board. Earlier this year, Hershey
made an endowment to Penn State's Center for Childhood Obesity
Research. It also introduced Hershey's Sticks, a portion-controlled
chocolate with 60 calories per serving. Later this year, Hershey will
launch a line of 100-calorie chocolate products. In addition, Hershey
has conducted numerous studies on glycemic responses and satiety and
continues to advance technological development in both sugar and fat
reduction in chocolate.
-- Mental and Physical Energy. Building on evidence linking the
consumption of cocoa and chocolate to improved mental acuity, The
Hershey Company has entered into a partnership with the Department of
Psychology at Virginia Tech to examine the ability of cocoa and
chocolate consumption to improve cognitive function in older adults.
The company also is conducting research combining such ingredients as
soy and whey with nuts and chocolate to better understand the impact
on metabolism and physical energy.
"We've already made great strides in a number of health benefit areas through research studies, partnerships and new product development," said Dan Azzara, Vice President, Global Innovation and Quality. "Now, thanks to the establishment of the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, we'll be able to rapidly expand our work, quickly translating the latest scientific research into great-tasting snack offerings."
Yale Study Links Drinking Hot Cocoa to Improved Cardiovascular Health
The company also announced today preliminary results of a Yale University study confirming the cardiovascular health benefits of hot cocoa consumption. Conducted by the Yale Prevention Research Center, the study showed that drinking either sweetened or sugar-free hot cocoa made with Hershey's Natural Cocoa powder can result in measurable improvements in arterial function.
"This study provides one more reason to enjoy hot cocoa," said David Katz, MD, Associate Professor of Public Health at Yale, and Director of the Prevention Research Center that conducted the study. "The natural cocoa used in this study produced remarkable improvements in arterial function in the people tested. This study adds more evidence regarding the health benefits of natural flavanol antioxidants found both in natural cocoa power and in chocolate."
In the study, 45 participants consumed a hot beverage containing either sugar-sweetened cocoa, sugar-free cocoa or a placebo without cocoa. Hershey's Natural Cocoa, whose flavanol antioxidant levels are not reduced by the alkali process common to most commercially available hot cocoa mixes, was used. The study was a continuation of ongoing research into the health benefits of dark chocolate consumption.
Ultrasound technology and other procedures were used to assess the direct effects of the hot beverage consumption on arterial function and blood flow. Both the regular hot cocoa and sugar-free hot cocoa resulted in improved blood flow within two hours of consumption, compared with the placebo which had no impact. The greatest improvement in arterial function and blood flow was recorded following consumption of sugar-free hot cocoa. Elasticity and responsiveness of arterial function are hallmarks of a healthy cardiovascular system.
"The study provides more evidence on the positive benefits of hot cocoa," said Debra Miller, Senior Nutrition Scientist, The Hershey Company. "We're extremely encouraged by these results as we continue to conduct research into the positive health benefits of cocoa powder and dark chocolate."
About Cocoa and Antioxidant Flavanols
Scientific studies have shown that specific naturally occurring compounds from cocoa beans called flavanols may deliver health benefits. Flavanols can act as antioxidants and also are found in tea, fruits and vegetables. Recent data from scientists at Hershey as well as the United States Department of Agriculture indicate that cocoa powder and dark chocolate are highly concentrated sources of natural flavanols. In general, the higher the cocoa content of a chocolate product, the more flavanols and the greater the antioxidant potential.
About The Hershey Company
The Hershey Company (HSY) is a leading snack food company and the largest North American manufacturer of quality chocolate and non-chocolate confectionery products. With revenues of over $4 billion and more than 14,000 employees worldwide, The Hershey Company markets such well-known brands as Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, Kit Kat, Almond Joy, Mounds, Jolly Rancher, Twizzlers, Ice Breakers, and Mauna Loa, as well as innovative new products such as Take 5 candy bar and Hershey's Cookies. In addition to its traditional confectionery products, Hershey offers a range of products specifically developed to address the nutritional interests of today's health- conscious consumer. These products include sugar-free Hershey's, Reese's and York candies, and PayDay Pro energy bar. It also markets Hershey's cocoa, Hershey's syrup and other branded baking ingredients, toppings and beverages. In addition, Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hershey Company, markets such premium chocolate offerings as Scharffen Berger, known for its high-cacao dark chocolate products, and Joseph Schmidt, recognized for its fine, handcrafted chocolate gifts. Visit us at http://www.hersheynewsroom.com.