Hershey today (23 April) booked higher first-quarter earnings as advertising campaigns helped boost sales of the US confectionery giant’s chocolate brands.

The group booked underlying net income – which stripped out charges linked to the firm’s restructuring programme – just under US$86m for the three months to 5 April, against $83.9m a year earlier.

Sales climbed from $1.16bn a year ago to $1.24bn during the current fiscal first quarter.

Reported net income, including restructuring costs, reached $75.9m, compared with $63.2m a year earlier.

President and CEO Dave West said the results represented “a good start to 2009”. West said: “Performance was solid with gains in net sales, profitability and US market share.”

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He added: “First-quarter profitability benefited from net price realisation, better volume trends than we had initially expected and supply chain efficiencies and productivity.”

West said he expects net sales to grow by 2-3% across the full year and said that, despite uncertainty over consumer sentiment,  earnings per share-diluted from operations will increase but less than Hershey’s long-term target of 6-8%.