We are always looking for quirky, interesting facts that can be expressed in just a few words. These are handy to throw into the publication rotation to help compensate for those articles that take several days to prepare.
We thought we had come across just such a gem of a fun fact upon seeing an internet post proclaiming, “Today I learned that the little piece of paper that sticks out of the top of a Hershey’s Kiss is called a niggly wiggly.” That seemed to be just the sort of thing the readers of Commonplace Fun Facts would appreciate. In less than 15 minutes, the proposed article was written, and we were off, looking for the next topic to explore.
That’s when the calls started coming from the staff in our Fact Check Department (or, as it is lovingly known within these halls, the “For Crying Out Loud, Stop Believing Everything You Find on the Internet, You Stupid Muppet” Department). The sage wisdom that rolled over the telephone was, verbatim: “For crying out loud, stop believing everything you find on the internet, you stupid muppet!”
What the Fact Check Department staff lacks in tact, social graces, and general hygiene, they make up for in attention to detail. They pointed out that if you type the aforesaid term into a search engine, you will, indeed, get some 31,000 results, overwhelmingly asserting that this is the name of that distinctive part of the Hershey’s Kiss wrapping. These sources range from UrbanDictionary.com and Alexa Answers to dozens of Reddit, Quora, and Twitter posts. One source that was curiously missing, however, was The Hershey Company itself.
We reached out to The Hershey Company hoping to quickly confirm this factoid, thus permitting the folks at the Fact Check Department to return to their coffins before sunrise. The response put an end to any hopes of cranking out a quick, one-paragraph post. It also sent us on a week-long research project that triggered a rather insatiable craving for chocolate. Feeding this craving no doubt fueled The Hershey Company’s 76-cent increase in its stock prices since this project began.
Milton S. Hershey (1857-1945) was an innovative chocolatier and businessman. He developed the recipes and the business plans that made The Hershey Company one of the largest candy manufacturers in the world. With principal manufacturing, distribution, and retail plants in four different countries, The Hershey Company sold over $8 billion of product in 2019.
Hershey’s life is replete with stories that will likely show up in future articles. For example, he was in Europe in April 1912 and had purchased reservations for his return trip. Last minute changes in plans intervened, however, thus preventing him from sailing on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic.
As successful as Hershey was in business, he was first and foremost a philanthropist. He invested a fortune in projects and programs to better the lives of children and of his employees. He expressed his fundamental business philosophy as, “The help-the-other-fellow principle is the only one that will succeed in modern business.”
This principle carries through to the operations of The Hershey Company to this day. It was evident in the immediate response to our inquiry. Admittedly, our opinion might be skewed somewhat by the fact that employees of The Hershey Company apparently get to include a little digital Hershey’s Kiss in the signature section of their emails. Seriously, how could anyone respond in a snarky manner to any email that features something as adorable as that?
Todd M. Scott, Communications Manager for The Hershey Company, quickly put the kibosh on the rumor about the incorrect name of the plume. “We can assure you that this story is completely false,” he said. “This terminology was never part of the vocabulary of this beloved and iconic product.”
Scott said they are aware of the misnomer, but they have no idea where it began. It would seem that the little piece of paper has picked up a name that you will never hear within The Hershey Company itself.
If anyone should know what the paper is called, it would be the company that designed the candy wrapper and holds the trademark to the design. U.S. Trademark Reg. 186,828 gave The Hershey Company the exclusive right to use the wrapper design on July 22, 1924. That same trademark unmistakably identifies the paper in question by the name “plume.”
The candy dates back to 1907, but how they came to be known as “Kisses” is shrouded in mystery. Some have speculated that it had something to do with the sound or the motion of the chocolate during production. Perhaps Mr. Hershey instinctively knew what scientists would confirm a century later — that chocolate raises the brain’s endorphin levels in a similar, though more powerful, manner as kissing.
Initially, Kisses were wrapped by hand in squares of aluminum foil. Today, machines accomplish the task much more efficiently, cranking out as many as 1,300 Hershey’s Kisses per minute. The plume was incorporated into the wrapping in 1921 to distinguish the product as an official Hershey’s candy. Prior to that, small squares of tissue paper were included within the foil wrapper. These papers identified the product as “Hershey’s Milk Made Kisses.” Nothing on the outside of the wrapper let the consumer know whether he or she was about to open a Hershey’s product or something from a competitor. The plume solved that problem. It acted as a flag to proclaim the company of origin. It also created a distinctive appearance and brand identity that was worthy of federal trademark protection.
Hershey is responsible for many of the most popular brands of candy in the world. Reese’s, Kit Kat, Whoppers, Jolly Ranchers, Milk Duds, and Rolo are just a few of the delicious treats produced by the company. (See them all here.) None, however, have achieved the reputation or have such an iconic appearance as the beloved Hershey’s Kisses. That’s all the more reason to pull the plug on the use of the misnomer of the plume.
The next time someone tells you the wrong name for the plume, remind them of the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln: “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet.”
On second thought, you might try to persuade them by offering them a kiss — the chocolate kind, of course.
To find out more about The Hershey Company, its history, and its products, visit its website.