Hershey has named COO John Bilbrey as interim president and CEO after the US confectioner's current chief executive announced his decision to leave the company.

David West informed the board of directors that he would leave Hershey to accept a position at another group.

"After ten years with the company, it's time to take on the next challenge," West said today (18 May).

Commenting on the move, Hershey chairman James Nevels said that the board was "pleased" that Bilbrey had accepted the position.

"He has worked closely with the board for several years and has been involved in all aspects of the company's strategy and operations. The board has seen first-hand his leadership and expertise and unanimously made this appointment," Nevels said.

"We will work quickly to name a permanent chief executive officer to ensure the continuation of this orderly transition," he added.

Hershey shares dropped 2.26% immediately following the announcement, declining to US$55.83 at 9.44 am in New York.

However, the company was keen to highlight its "solid" business fundamentals and reaffirm its guidance.

"Business fundamentals are solid and management will continue to execute against the strategy outlined at the CAGNY conference in February. We expect that Hershey will continue its disciplined approach to global expansion while achieving its long-term target of net sales and adjusted earnings per share growth of 3-5% and 6-8%, respectively, with the goal of increasing value for all stockholders," Nevels said.