The Hershey Co. is donating $1 million to make face masks that offer protection against the coronavirus. The move comes as the consumer goods industry continues to step up its efforts to stem the tide of the pandemic and ease the economic damage it has caused.
Hershey said it will spend that money to acquire, install and staff a new manufacturing line dedicated to the production of face masks. The new line, which will be capable of producing up to 45,000 masks per day, will become operational near the end of May.
Demand for face masks has been high since the start of social distancing efforts and mandates, and spiked in this country after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in April recommended that the pandemic protection gear be worn whenever a person in is public. The problem is global even as Hershey and other CPG manufacturers step up to the challenge and invest in face mask production. For instance, as the U.K. government mulls a face mask requirement there, makers of the gear are warning about significant shortages of those products in that country, according to reports.
As for Hershey, the company brought up its long history in explaining its decision to help meet consumer demand for face masks.
“Supporting our communities in difficult times is part of our legacy, and an important value that our current employees share,” said Michele Buck, Hershey president and CEO. “From the building projects that created local jobs during the Great Depression, to producing military rations during World War II, we take great pride in making a difference where we can.”
Hershey said it will leverage its relationships with equipment manufacturer JR Automation and General Motors, who are both making similar masks to help get its face mask production up and running as quickly as possible. Besides committing itself to make face masks, Hershey said it has donated millions in cash and product to benefit community safety net organizations and a variety of healthcare organizations, while simultaneously supporting employee safety and well-being.
The list of CPG operations pulling more weight to help people better deal with pandemic pain points keeps on growing. Coca-Cola, for example, has pledged at least $13.5 million toward pandemic relief efforts such as food banks, started making hand sanitizer, worked more closely with restaurants about how to get the most from take-out and delivery service, and taken other steps. Colgate-Palmolive, for its part, has dedicated five of its factories to producing at least 25 million bars soap with packaging that includes instructions on proper pandemic hand washing. As this pandemic continues, it seems likely that even more CGP companies will get in on such efforts.