Chocolate is a universally delectable food. 3D printing could potentially disrupt the industry (worth $ 50 billion globally), pushing it towards mass customization among the 6 emerging business models in additive manufacturing. (mass customization, mass variety, mass segmentation, mass modularization, mass complexity and mass standardization) . Large chocolate manufacturers like Hershey’s are exploring the potential changes that it may cause to the industry.
Megatrend and Process Improvement
3D printing will allow large American chocolate manufacturers, like Hershey’s to offer custom products to their clients at a much lower price compared to the past. Hershey’s has been losing market share to premium Belgian and Dutch chocolate manufacturers. A 3D printer will allow the company to print each country’s chocolate in a cost-effective manner and in this way, prevent foreign competitors from entering the market. In addition, it provides a tailored product to the end user, allowing them to pre-select or create chocolate designs of their own. The company could also consider distributed manufacturing with the ability for mass-scale 3-D printing in areas without Hershey manufacturing facilities. A final option for the company would be to leverage 3D printing for the adoption of non-chocolate 3-D food printing .
Hershey’s Strategy in Short and Medium Term
Hershey’s and 3D systems (3D systems is a company that engineers, manufactures and sells 3D printers. The company creates, concept models, and prototypes for digital manufacturing) collaborated to create a “Cocojet 3D printer” . Additive manufacturing for edible industries comprises of two main technologies, namely, direct printing or mold printing. The printer developed by Hershey’s builds chocolates layer by layer, using the process of directing printing. This printer can do anything that a regular 3D printer can do with plastic. The printer can build intricate design, all with sweet chocolate. Direct printing uses the extrusion principle, which allows high degrees of freedom, since the design does not have to be removed from a mold. Since no mold is required, costs are limited to the digital design of the object, machine’s amortized cost and the chocolate-based input . Customized chocolate, using technologies like above, is available at global Hershey’s locations. The company also installed the printer at the Culinary school to see how different chocolate shapes could be produced, which are generally not possible under normal molding techniques.
In the medium term, Hershey’s hope is that chocolate printers become easy to use, such that it can sell them to restaurants and bakeries. In this way Hershey’s could also enter a new business line of selling printers, in addition to chocolate. This would help in blocking rivals that might try to enter the American market through those channels.
Technological Barriers and Food for Thought
3D printing of chocolate, still has some technological barriers which would need more attention. The process is temperature sensitive and because of this can be time consuming. The “Cocojet” machine throughput time can vary depending on the design, from 33 minutes, all the way to 1 hour and 26 minutes. Another issue is that, the chocolate must be warm enough to melt, but the bottom part must be cool enough for object to hold its shape. There are limited designs you can make structurally with chocolate, as compared to other materials. e.g. plastic.
In the short term, chocolate manufacturers need to embrace the technology whole-heartedly and understand that this technology is a powerful tool for them to leverage efficiently. It will help them provide better results to their customers. More research should be undertaken in this field such that with each iteration, the technology will become faster and more precise. Depending on the design, throughput times can be reduced. They could also avail of the research and development tax credit, which ranges from 4-7%, if research is for new and improved products and processes. Earlier it could take weeks before manufacturers got a molded bar of chocolate to consumer testing, now this process can happen overnight with 3D printing .
In the medium term, Hershey’s should also take inputs from customers, by running pilot tests in public and accordingly continuously optimize the process of chocolate 3D printing. The company should also leverage the accuracy that can be obtained with 3D printing and the fact that products can be highly customized for special occasions (e.g. wedding days or birthdays).
In the context of additive manufacturing and the chocolate industry, the debate is whether, the 3D printing, will be useful for a niche product, or if it will be useful mass production in areas where there are no manufacturing facilities. Will this be a revolutionary change to the way chocolate is manufactured or is this simply a tool for better customization?
Cocojet 3D Printer 
3D Printed Chocolate 
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 https://adage.com/article/news/edible-3-d-food-printing-a-reality-hershey/296812/. Visited 13th November 2018
 https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/241596. Visited on 10th November 2018
 https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/3d-opportunity/3d-printing-in-the-food-industry.html. Visited on 11th November, 2018
 https://3dprint.com/213896/rd-3d-printing-chocolate/. Visited 12th November 2018
 https://3dprint.com/35081/culinary-printing-3d-systems/ Visited on 12th November 2018