US confectioner Hershey Foods has reported higher net sales and earnings for the fourth quarter of 2004, helped by new product introductions and cost controls.

The company said net income for the fourth quarter of 2004 was US$170.3m, or 68 cents per share, compared to $144.9m, or 55 cents per share, for the comparable period of 2003. Consolidated net sales were $1.27bn, compared with $1.18bn for the fourth quarter of 2003, primarily due to strong unit volume growth for new products and limited editions.

For the full year 2004, consolidated net sales were $4.43bn compared with $4.17bn for 2003, an increase of 6.2%. Net income for 2004 was $590.9m, or $2.30 per share, compared with $457.6m, or $1.73 per share, for 2003.

“The fourth quarter was excellent,” said chairman, president and CEO Richard Lenny.

“Strong sales growth fuelled by new products and more efficient trade spending combined with solid cost control to deliver record profitability. Marketplace momentum accelerated as we gained market share in all major classes of trade. For the year, Hershey delivered record sales, earnings, and returns despite significant cost pressures. This performance further validates the sustainability of our value-enhancing strategy,” he added.