New Reese's cups and Kit Kats help boost Hershey

Hershey hopes the new products will refresh the brand and attract Americans who are increasingly snacking more

New Reese's peanut butter cups and Kit Kat bars helped boost Hershey's sales, the chocolate company said Friday as it reported that quarterly profit rose 47 per cent and predicted better full-year earnings than it previously expected.

Shares of Hershey Co. jumped nearly 7 per cent Friday.

Its new products—a Reese's peanut butter cup stuffed with Reese's Pieces, and Kit Kat Big Kat—helped increase sales of both brands, the company said. In December, it will launch Hershey's Cookie Layer Crunch, a chocolate bar stuffed with cookies. Hershey hopes the product will refresh the brand and attract Americans who are increasingly snacking more instead of eating a set amount of meals a day. Last year, Hershey bought jerky maker Krave to expand its snack offerings.

"We know that snacking is growing faster than the total food market,'' said Michele Buck, Hershey's chief operating officer, in a conference call with investors.

Hershey is also in the midst of finding a new CEO to replace John Bilbrey, who is retiring in July. The announcement of his retirement earlier this month came just a couple of months after Oreo cookie maker Mondelez ended talks to buy Hershey.

Overall, Hershey reported third-quarter earnings of $227.4 million, or $1.06 per share, in the third quarter, up from $154.8 million, or 70 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Adjusted earnings came to $1.29 per share, beating Wall Street expectations of $1.18 per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue rose 2 per cent to $2 billion, which did not meet Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $2.02 billion.

But Hershey said it now expects full-year earnings in the range of $4.28 per share to $4.32 per share. That's up from its previous forecast $4.24 per share to $4.28 per share, and also above the $4.26 per share that analysts expected.

Hershey shares rose $6.40 to $101.91 in afternoon trading Friday.

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