Dubai: The Hershey Company, popularly known as the Chocolate Company in the US, recently opened its first Middle East Hershey's Chocolate World Store in Dubai.
"The Middle East is a fast growing location and Dubai is at the perfect crossroads for this in terms of brand exposure," said Milton Brice, vice-president of finance at The Hershey Company.
The store, which was officially opened in Dubai Mall on June 30 is the second biggest single brand store after its flagship store in Pennsylvania, USA.
"The Dubai store is in a terrific location. It represents an important investment in the Middle East and will help increase consumer awareness," said Ted Jastrzebski, senior vice-president of Hershey's International.
The store, which offers 80 per cent of Hershey's global product portfolio, will sell more than 300 Hershey products and memorabilia.
"In the UAE, people like the creamier type of chocolate. With this in mind and the help of Retail is Detail, we've selected the product that caters to this region," said Brice.
To entice customers, Hershey's has introduced various interactive features. Customers will be able to customise their own Hershey bar by having their picture and personal message printed on a bar of chocolate.
"We wanted to make the store an interactive Hershey experience and also incorporate a bit of heritage," said Sunaina Gill, director of operations and merchandising at Retail is Detail.
The other interactive experience is a filler bucket, a machine that churns out Hershey's Kisses while showing the history and how they are made.
Other attractions include the world's largest Hershey Chocolate bar weighing five pounds, the world's largest Hershey's Kiss and Reese's peanut butter cup.
For the Gold lovers, Hershey's has introduced a 14-ounce Hershey's Golden Almond gift box containing 2.8 ounce bars of Hershey's Milk chocolate with almonds.
"We also have the sub brands which are not as well known such as Twizzlers, Jolly Rancher and Payday. They are put in the forefront of the store as we wanted to push these brands a little more to gain more awareness," said Gill.
Hershey's other stall in the Candylicious outlet in Dubai Mall has done well since its opening, according to Gill.
Both points of sale were chosen strategically. "The demographics of footfall near the aquarium and the demographics of footfall near the cinema are very different. The area near the cinema tends to get very busy but with the local population while the aquarium area gets more tourist footfall," says Gill.
Hershey's was established more than 100 years ago by Milton Hershey. After several failed attempts, Hershey eventually perfected the method for making milk chocolate that was affordable to the masses and the Hershey's Kiss was invented in 1907.
Since then, Hershey's has built on iconic brands such as Hershey's, Reese's, Twizzlers and has products available in 90 countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Shanghai, China and most recently Dubai.
Hershey's last year reached annual sales of $5 billion with its biggest markets outside the US in Canada and Mexico. According to Brice, Hershey's is also experiencing double digit growth in the Middle East where growth is averaging 10 per cent a year.
Rising commodity prices have meant Heshey's has had to raise retail prices by 11 per cent in the US. The company intends to launch more Hershey's Chocolate World Concept stores in the region in the coming months.