When did Hershey syrup stop coming in a can?

Hershey’s chocolate syrup has been a staple in American pantries for decades, with its distinctive brown packaging and sweet chocolate flavor. Many people have fond memories of using Hershey’s syrup to make chocolate milk, ice cream sundaes, or other sweet treats. However, longtime fans may have noticed that at some point, Hershey’s switched from selling their syrup in metal cans to plastic bottles. So when exactly did this change happen?

The History of Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

Hershey’s chocolate syrup first hit the market in 1926, packaged in metal cans. The story goes that a salesman named Harry Burnett was inspired by the chocolate coating used on ice cream sundaes at pharmacies. He convinced Milton S. Hershey, founder of Hershey’s chocolate, to develop a chocolate syrup product that consumers could buy and use at home. After months of recipe testing, Hershey’s Genuine Chocolate Syrup made its debut.

The metal can packaging was ideal for keeping the syrup fresh and preventing contamination. The distinctive brown cans featured Hershey’s logo and brand name in raised lettering. Hershey’s syrup quickly became popular nationwide as the convenience of ready-made chocolate syrup appealed to homemakers. By 1932, over 1 million cans were being sold annually.

For several decades, Hershey’s chocolate syrup was only available in metal cans. However, a few factors led the company to transition to plastic bottles in the latter half of the 1900s.

Reasons for the Switch to Plastic Bottles

There were a few likely reasons Hershey’s decided to change from metal cans to plastic bottles for their chocolate syrup:

  • Cheaper production costs – Plastic bottles were less expensive to manufacture at scale than metal cans.
  • Lighter weight – Plastic packaging made the syrup easier to transport and distribute across the country.
  • Safety concerns – Metal cans could rust or degrade over time, while plastic offered a more sterile, tamper-proof container.
  • Convenience – Plastic squeeze bottles allowed consumers to pour syrup more easily and control portion sizes.
  • Broader use – Plastic packaging opened up opportunities to market the syrup for additional uses besides a ice cream topping.

The switch to plastic bottles addressed concerns around costs, distribution, and safety. It also made Hershey’s syrup even more consumer-friendly and allowed for expanded marketing tactics. However, the exact timeline of the transition is unclear.

When Did Hershey’s Stop Using Metal Cans?

Pinpointing the exact year Hershey’s chocolate syrup shifted from metal cans to plastic bottles is difficult. The company itself does not provide specifics on when the packaging changed on their website or in publicly available records.

However, we can piece together a rough timeline based on old magazine ads and consumer recollections:

  • 1960s – Hershey’s syrup cans begin to appear made from a steel-tin alloy rather than pure steel.
  • Early 1970s – Some brands like Bosco and Fox’s U-bet begin selling syrup in plastic bottles, but Hershey’s still uses metal cans.
  • Mid 1970s – Hershey’s 10th edition cookbook from 1976 shows syrup in a metal can on the cover.
  • Late 1970s – Consumers start noticing Hershey’s syrup being sold in plastic as well as metal cans.
  • 1980s – Hershey’s formally transitions to plastic packaging. Metal cans are gradually phased out.

Based on this timeline, it appears Hershey’s slowly introduced plastic bottles sometime in the late 1970s but didn’t completely switch over until the 1980s. In fact, some metal cans may have lingered on store shelves into the early 1980s before being totally discontinued.

Why the Exact Date Is Unclear

There are a few reasons why Hershey’s has never officially announced or documented an exact date for the switch from metal syrup cans to plastic:

  • Gradual transition – Since the packaging shift occurred slowly over several years, there was no single day it ended.
  • Regional differences – Hershey’s rolled out plastic bottles region-by-region, so the timing was staggered.
  • Low priority – Changing syrup packaging was not a major event warranting an announcement.
  • Lack of records – Details on product packaging likely weren’t well-documented at the time.
  • Consumer focus – As a consumer brand, Hershey’s priorities communicating with customers over recording minor product changes.

Given these realities, it’s unlikely that Hershey’s would have an exact date for when the last metal syrup can was produced or sold. The switch occurred incrementally over a period of years without much fanfare.

How Consumers Reacted to the Change

Since the change from metal cans happened slowly across the late 1970s and into the 80s, there wasn’t one dramatic reaction from consumers. However, many syrup lovers did notice and have opinions on the new plastic packaging.

Some of the common consumer reactions included:

  • Confusion/skepticism – Some thought the plastic bottles looked “cheap” and doubted the syrup inside was real Hershey’s.
  • Anger/sadness – Loyal fans were upset their nostalgic metal cans were gone forever.
  • Indifference – Those who just wanted syrup were unaffected by what container it came in.
  • Acceptance – Most got used to the plastic after realizing the syrup tasted the same.
  • Approval – Some liked that the bottles were easier to handle and store.

While die-hard metal can fans never got over the change, many consumers accepted the plastic bottles over time. The new packaging became the norm for generations of kids and families who grew up with the plastic bottles.

The Return of Retro Metal Cans

Although metal cans disappeared from mainline Hershey’s syrup by the 1980s, they have made a nostalgic comeback in recent years.

In 2019, Hershey’s released a limited edition “retro series” including metal cans of chocolate syrup. The cans featured throwback packaging designs meant to evoke 1950s-era styles. The retro cans were sold at select retailers like Walmart and Kroger and online through Amazon.

Hershey’s has brought back the vintage metal cans a few holiday seasons since 2019. They are branded as festive holiday offerings and often have gingerbread or other seasonal designs. It’s likely Hershey’s will continue producing limited metal can runs to tap into consumer nostalgia around the old-school packaging.

While metal cans are no longer practical for everyday syrup sales, Hershey’s is strategically tapping into candy nostalgia trends by bringing back cans for special occasions. The iconic cans evoke warm childhood memories among older generations today.

The Future of Hershey’s Syrup

Looking ahead, what’s next for this iconic chocolate syrup brand?

We will likely continue to see plastic squeeze bottles as Hershey’s main syrup packaging for the foreseeable future. Plastic offers convenience and cost savings compared to metal. However, Hershey’s may release limited edition metal cans from time to time when feeling nostalgic.

Hershey’s may also innovate their syrup packaging in other ways moving forward:

  • New bottle shapes or designs – Possible shape tweaks while keeping the material plastic.
  • Sugar-free options – Bottles indicating lower sugar or carb options.
  • Seasonal flavors – Special editions for holidays or seasons besides classic chocolate.
  • Updated labeling – Changing nutrition info, certifications (organic, non-GMO etc.), or brand imaging.

While the packaging will likely remain plastic, Hershey’s has opportunities to keep their syrup feeling fresh through new bottle styles, formula innovations, and seasonal offerings. The brand is nearly 100 years old but may continue evolving for the next 100 years to come.


Hershey’s chocolate syrup first delighted consumers in 1926 when it came in iconic metal cans. However, by the late 1970s, the brand made a gradual transition over to plastic bottles. This offered advantages like lower costs and easier use. Hershey’s gradually phased out metal cans completely by the 1980s. Many fans were initially skeptical of the plastic bottles, but ultimately accepted them over time.

While we may never know the exact day the last Hershey’s syrup can was sold, the plastic bottles have become standard for generations now. Metal cans have made a nostalgic comeback as limited edition holiday items, but plastic remains the packaging of choice moving forward thanks to its convenience and affordability. As long as the delicious chocolate taste remains the same, Hershey’s fans will keep enjoying this pantry staple regardless of the container.

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