The Hershey Trust, the charitable trust which controls US confectionery Hershey Co., may be prepared to relax its views on a deal that could deliver the growth analysts and investors have been calling for.

However, the trust, which controls around 80% of the voting shares in Hershey, wants to retain its control of the company.

The move has immediately signalled renewed speculation concerning a tie-up between the confectionery business of Cadbury Schweppes, soon to become a stand-alone operation, and Hershey.

Hershey Trust chairman LeRoy Zimmerman said the trust expected Hershey to build on its US position "by aggressively pursuing strategies for domestic and international growth".

He added in a statement released to the Wall Street Journal: "There is no inherent conflict between these two core principles. There are many paths to accelerating growth that do not involve the trust giving up voting control of the company."

Analysts have suggested that the trust's hitherto restrictive views about Hershey combining with another company have hampered the US company's progress.

However, this statement could have removed that stumbling-block, which is thought to have been the main reason for the sudden departure of Rick Lenny, who retired as Hershey's chief executive just over a week ago.

Zimmerman said the trust had been unhappy with efforts to improve Hershey's performance simply by relying on product innovation, efforts to build international sales, and moving some production to Mexico.

He also alluded to the fact that the trust's 30% equity stake in Hershey had lost more than US$1bn in market value as Hershey had continued to under-perform both market and the company's own expectations.

Zimmerman said the trust was looking to ensure the company's board focuses "on resolving the company's current business challenges and on implementing new growth strategies".