Hershey’s Kristen Riggs gets a taste of new responsibility in 17th year with the company

Riggs was tapped as president of salty snacks at Hershey’s in November 2022.
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“NRF Big Show”/Jason Dixson Photography

· 4 min read

How do you convince people to buy candy? It seems like it wouldn’t be a tall task, but it’s actually quite the opposite.

Kristen Riggs joined The Hershey Company in 2005 and has since held a number of commercial leadership roles in brand marketing, shopper marketing, global marketing, and sales. She’s now president of salty snacks where she oversees the company’s growth strategy, which includes the consumer intelligence and strategy team and The Hershey Experience—the company’s Times Square-based experiential brick-and-mortar concept.

As an industry and Hershey’s veteran, Riggs has had the opportunity to work on major brands such as Reese’s, Hershey’s Kisses, and KitKat. In her previous role with the company, as chief growth officer, she was responsible for setting enterprise strategies to drive growth and demand across media, M&A, consumer intelligence, innovation, and R&D.

Although Riggs only started her new role in November 2022, she’s bringing 17 years worth of experience primarily focused on understanding the constantly-shifting consumer demands for a brand whose name is synonymous with chocolate.

“I have two favorites in my work at Hershey. The first is the opportunity to work on brands consumers love and understanding their emotional connections to the moments they share with us,” Riggs told Retail Brew. “The second is working alongside an incredible team that cares deeply for each other and takes great pride in carrying the legacy of our company into the future.”

Life is like a box of chocolates: Before Hershey’s, Riggs had a completely different career as a semiconductor engineer making memory chips for a firm in Austin, Texas. She said her prior experience has helped her see things from several points of view. 

  • “Seeing things with multiple lenses always adds perspectives,” she said. “The more experiences you can have—like manufacturing, marketing, and sales—can give you unique insights and ways to connect the business more holistically.”

Many of the people Riggs has worked with during her time with Hershey’s are now leading important work across the company as it develops a new generation of leaders who are helping usher it into its next iteration.

Given her 17-year tenure with one of the biggest chocolate manufacturers in the world, Riggs’s advice for someone wanting to pursue a similar career is to be passionate in the field and to make sure your pursuit is purposeful.

  • “Pursue your passion and purpose with all you’ve got,” she said. “Do what you love because you spend so much time dedicated to your work that it should bring you fulfillment and joy. If you love it, you will love learning, developing, and working hard every day.”

Crunch time: But working in CPG right now—like many industries—comes with its challenges, and the playing field has changed dramatically in 17 years, Riggs said. In Q3, Hershey’s earnings results came in ahead of expectations, as consolidated net sales of $2.73 billion increased 15.6%.

  • However, there is a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the world around us that’s not in Hershey’s control. Riggs said it’s more important than ever to understand the consumer in real time to be able to make changes that best meet their snacking needs.
  • She said Hershey works closely with its retail partners to better understand these changes in real time and be able to pivot when consumers’ needs shift.
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Part of Riggs’s role involves using data and analytics to find new opportunities to sell products and meet needs in the category.

“The commercial functions of marketing and sales are increasingly interdependent and intertwined through data and analytics,” Riggs said. “What is most important for the future is being able to connect the dots of the holistic commercial business to anticipate and evolve with consumers to continue to bring innovative ways to grow the snacking category.”

In 2023, Hershey is planning five new product lines to debut throughout the year, which includes three new Reese’s brands. As for Riggs, she’s looking to learn and grow into the role as she continues to lead the company’s enterprise strategy.

“The potential to continue to expand and diversify our portfolio, lead in new categories, and connect with more people with brands like SkinnyPop and Dot’s Pretzels excites me,” she said.

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