US confectionery firm Hershey Foods has reported higher quarterly net income, helped by new products and a focus on higher margin items.

The company posted net income of US$107.1m, or 82 cents per share, for the first quarter to 4 April, compared to income of $97.6m, or 73 cents per share, in the same period of the previous year.

Consolidated net sales for the first quarter were $1.01bn compared with $953.2m for the first quarter of 2003, an increase of 6.3%.

"The combination of higher margin, on-trend new items and continued cost control, yielded strong sales growth, market share expansion, and record profitability. We continue to gain momentum in our areas of strategic focus from both a consumer and customer standpoint," said CEO Richard Lenny.
 
"As we look ahead, innovative new products and packaging, within core confectionery and the broader snack market, will play a key role in delivering profitable, organic growth," Lenny concluded.

For 2004, the company backed its target of sales growth of 3-4% and diluted earnings per share growth of 9-11%.