Swedish confectionery company Cloetta has booked an increase in first-quarter profits, as sales were boosted by more marketing and product development.

For the three months to the end of November, operating profit edged up to SEK45m (US$6.6m) from SEK44m a year earlier.

In the Swedish market, which accounts for around 85% of Cloetta’s sales, net sales were up by 4% to SEK333m. The figure was boosted by the launch of chocolate bar Tarragona in the grocery trade, the firm said today (15 December).

“One of the critical success factors was continued high efficiency in production,” said Curt Petri, Cloetta managing director and CEO. “On the downside, we have seen historically high prices for cocoa and therefore have a need to raise the prices of some of our products.

Nonetheless, he added: “A high rate of product development and new product launches is important for us, and in the past quarter we intensified our activities in marketing and product development,” says Curt Petri.

Cloetta said it will introduce several new products at the beginning of 2011, in addition to relaunching its bagged chocolate products. The new year will also see a re-design for its largest brand, Kexchoklad.

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“The goal is to modernise and strengthen the brand’s position as Sweden’s most sold confectionery item,” Petri said. “For the start of the ski season, it will also be launched in a new taste combination – Kexchoklad blueberry.”

Click here to view the full earnings release.