Hershey has cut its long-term earnings growth targets ahead of a meeting with financial analysts in New York today (17 June).

Hershey stood by its 2008 EPS forecast of US$1.85 to $1.90 before one-time items.

However, following a review of growth targets launched in October, Hershey has set a new long-term earnings growth target of 6-8%. It had previously aimed to achieve earnings growth of 9-11%.

The company also said it is eyeing annual sales growth of 3-5%, compared with the previous 3-4% target.  

In an attempt to reinvigorate lacklustre sales, Hershey plans to increase its advertising spend by 20% per year over the next two years.

The US confectioner has struggled to deal with increased costs while also loosing market share in the US to the likes of Mars.

In April, Mars acquired Wm Wrigley for $23bn, sparking speculation that the sector could be in for further consolidation, with Hershey viewed as a potential target.

However, LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of the Hershey Trust, ruled out any possibility of Hershey being sold in a comment piece printed over the weekend.

"The trust is committed to retaining its controlling interest in the company," Zimmerman wrote in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Patriot-News. "This is first and foremost a principle grounded in Milton Hershey's philanthropic legacy. It also is rooted in constraints of Pennsylvania law and practical business imperatives. Simply put: We will not sell The Hershey Co."

The Hershey trust controls 78% of Hershey's voting stock.