USA – Leading chocolate manufacturer, The Hershey Company is investing US$104 million in expanding its manufacturing plant in Stuarts Draft, Augusta County.

According to a Food Business News report, the investment includes a 111,000 square feet addition at Stuarts Draft, which is Hershey’s second largest plant in the United States.

It will also build a separate 46,000-square-foot standalone building that will house the Hershey Peanut Roasting Center of Excellence.

The building will be home to a new production line for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

The expanded facility will manufacture penuche and peanut cream, which will be distributed to other Hershey facilities on the East Coast.

The new roasting center will feature the latest peanut roasting technology and create unprecedented safety for the peanut roasting process, according to Hershey.

The center also will create expanded roasting capacity to support the company’s roasted peanut and peanut-filling needs at other U.S. plants.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia and Augusta county have been part of Hershey’s success for more than 35 years,” said Susanna Zhu, vice-president of U.S. supply chain for The Hershey Co.

“We are pleased to build on this partnership with our plant expansion and continue to make Stuarts Draft a key to delighting consumers across the United States and around the world with our iconic products.”

Hershey said the current facility has about 1,000 employees total and the expansion and new line should be operational by the beginning of 2020.

The project is expected to create 65 new jobs, reinforcing Hershey’s commitment to economic development in the county.

“For more than thirty years, The Hershey Company has continued to grow in Augusta County, creating hundreds of jobs and setting the bar for a thriving food and beverage industry cluster in the Shenandoah Valley,” said Governor Ralph Northam.

“The company’s economic contribution to Virginia cannot be overstated, and we look forward to many more years of success for Hershey with this major investment and the establishment of a new Roasting Center of Excellence.”