Executives of US confectioner Hershey Foods have said that the company has new sugar-free products on the way and is exploring expanding beyond its traditional candy, gum and mint businesses into snacks.

In the first three months of 2003, Hershey will produce four items for the "calorie-conscious and diabetics", the company's senior vice president for sales, David West, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The executives did not reveal a great deal about their plans, saying they wanted to keep them confidential.

The company did reveal, however, that it could be on the look out for potential partners to market its brands overseas. Around 90% of Hershey's sales are in the US, with 95% within North America.

The confectioner raised its 2003 earnings-per-share growth outlook to the top end of its October forecast range of 9% to 11% but lowered its 2003 sales growth outlook to between 2% and 3%. Hershey had previously forecast sales growth for the year of between 3% and 4%, reported Reuters.