Hershey "reclaimed leadership" of US candy, mint and gum sector in 2013, the company said

Hershey "reclaimed leadership" of US candy, mint and gum sector in 2013, the company said

Hershey president and CEO J.P. Bilbrey said today (30 January) the US confectionery giant had "ended 2013 strongly" after fourth-quarter sales and underlying earnings beat internal expectations.

Fourth quarter net sales increased 11.7% to US$1.96bn. Adjusted earnings per share, excluding items including M&A costs, as well as pension and restructuring charges were $0.86, compared to $0.72 in 2012.

The consensus forecasts among Wall Street analysts were for net sales to grow 8% and earnings to hit $0.86.

Bilbrey said "solid volume growth in North America and in international markets" helped Hershey's quarterly sales.

Net income in the quarter to the end of December was up 24.1% at $186m.

In 2013, net sales rose 7.6% to $7.15bn. Adjusted earnings per share were $3.72, up from $3.24 in 2012.

Net income for the year was also up 24.1%, rising to $820.4m.

Bilbrey said Hershey had "reclaimed leadership" of the US candy, mint and gum sector. He also pointed to Hershey's share of China's chocolate market growing above 10%.

Hershey has forecast a 5-7% increase in net sales and a 9-11% rise in adjusted earnings per share in 2014.