US confectionery firm Hershey Foods has reported higher quarterly profit, helped by new products such as Hershey’s S’mores and Swoops.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania-based company posted net income of US$144.9m, or $1.10 per share, for the fourth quarter to 31 December, compared to $130.3m, or 96 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Fourth-quarter consolidated net sales were $1.18bn, compared with $1.16bn a year earlier.

For the full year 2003, consolidated net sales were $4.17bn, compared with $4.12bn for 2002. Net income for 2003 was $457.6m, or $3.46 per share, compared with $403.6m, or $2.93 per share, for 2002.

“Hershey’s fourth quarter results represent a solid finish to a strong year. They are a continuation of the balanced performance that we expect from our value-enhancing strategy,” said CEO Richard H. Lenny, adding that the company expected another good year in 2004.

“Our plans for the year include accelerating our new product efforts, introducing on-trend, higher-margin items that bring excitement to the category. We’ll continue to strengthen our ability to compete in the broader snack market through enhanced selling capabilities. Our expectations are to achieve sales and earnings growth in line with previously-stated, long-term goals with on-going improvement in margins and returns,” Lenny concluded.