The sweet life: Donald Lear marks 33 years at Hershey


Our Concession Spotlight moves back to the supply side this month with a profile of Don Lear, senior customer marketing and planning manager for The Hershey Company. I have known Don for many years and it is my pleasure to highlight his career and let you get to know him a little better.

Don is a true believer in his company and his products, and it shows in his approach to his career, his clients and his peers. A joy to work with and a team player, he is a great participant in our industry.

Don Lear started his career with The Hershey Company in 1981 after graduating with an Honors History degree from Pennsylvania State University. Following 11 years in field sales in the Mid-Atlantic area, he moved into channel marketing, based in Hershey, PA, where he has been in marketing positions for the past 22 years.

Don declares, “My smartest career move was to join The Hershey Company right out of college and remain with the company for 33 years. Hershey has some of the most iconic consumer brands in the world, and I have had the honor to work with many outstanding people throughout my career.”

Anyone in particular? “There is no single person that I can point to. I have been fortunate to have worked with a series of great managers over the years and each has helped me understand the business and succeed in my career. These include Walter Woods and Melinda Wonders, whom many in the trade will remember.”

In his current position, Don is responsible for Hershey’s marketing direction for five different channels, including Concession, Vending, Foodservice, Fundraising and Specialty Retail. Asked what trends in the chocolate and confection industry he views as game-changers, he replies, “A critical trend is developing the right product, in the right form for consumers to enjoy for select occasions in their lifestyle. This is all driven by consumer research and then responding with innovative solutions to the resulting insights. It’s rare for a new product to simply be introduced successfully without such deep, consumer-centric understanding. The same applies to all forms of retailing, which includes concessionaires.” He also sees The Hershey Company as “a major global company bringing goodness to the world through great-tasting snacks…one smile, one moment and one person at a time.”

Don has also become very active in the National Association of Concessionaires (NAC), bringing 22 years of varied concession channel experience to the group. He has been on the NAC executive board since 2012. He serves on the Membership Committee but is also the Government Relations Committee chairperson, where he brings much expertise and value.

The Government Relations committee is especially critical, given all the proposed legislation and efforts by numerous interest groups that may not be in the interest of NAC members. Don and his dedicated committee members—Dan Borschke, Denise De Zutter, Kevin Mitchell, Jon Muscalo and Robert Perkins—hold meetings every other week to discuss topics and determine the agenda which the general membership should know and which sometimes require their action.

Asked what the most rewarding part of his career has been, Don responds, “While modest career success with The Hershey Company has been satisfying, the most rewarding part is the people I interact with every day. Within Hershey, this includes Mark Dieffenbach, Rick Ermish and all of our tremendous sales team. But it is also all or our customers who are the reason I have been able to do what I do for so many years.”

Don and his wife Cindy, who is a crisis call center manager, have been married 30 years and have three children. Christy, 25, is the sports information director at Geneva College; David, 22, just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh as a Biology major, in preparation for the medical field; and Drew, 17, is a junior in high school.

Don likes all sports and is active in sabre fencing; in fact, he was a two-time All-American at Penn State University. He is also very involved in numerous church ministries.

Our Concession Spotlights reveal great information about the executives in our industry and I enjoy bringing them to you. I hope you now have a better picture of Don’s career and interests and can appreciate the wide variety of talent, skill, and community and industry involvement that our industry executives possess.