US confectioner Hershey Foods has said its quarterly earnings rose as higher chocolate bar prices and a better product mix lifted profit margins.

Hershey, the No.1 US chocolate maker, reported first-quarter profit of US$97.6m, or 73 cents a share, compared with $87m, or 63 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were on average expecting profit of 73 cents a share, reported Reuters.

The company’s sales fell to $953.2m in the first quarter, compared to $988.5m a year earlier, due to retailers stocking up on Hershey’s products in the prior quarter before the company hiked the prices of its chocolate bars on 1 January.