US confectioner Hershey has booked an increase in first-quarter earnings and raised its full-year profit forecast.

In the three months to the end of March, earnings climbed 21.8% to US$241.9m as lower commodity prices and cost-cutting boosted margins. The Reese’s maker’s gross margin rose 2.4 percentage points to 46.5% in the quarter.

EBIT amounted to $391.8m compared to $334.5m a year earlier. Sales were up 5.5% to $1.83bn.

“Hershey’s first quarter results, driven by solid volume growth across core brands, represent a good start to the year,” said president and CEO J. P. Bilbrey. “We maintained our retail momentum in the U.S. and key international markets. Specifically, first quarter US marketplace performance was strong, driven by solid volume and unit trends across most major pack types resulting in market share gains in every channel where we compete.”

Hershey also raised its outlook for the year and now expects EPS of $3.61 to $3.65, up from $3.56 to $3.63. It maintained its sales forecast of 5% to 7%.

Yesterday, Hershey announced it had shaken up its management team – including switching CFO Bert Alfonso to a role of president of its international business.