Hershey profits jump as consumers stock up on sweets

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The Hershey Co. posted a sweet third-quarter profit as Americans stocked up on chocolate and baked their own treats amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pennsylvania candy maker’s operating profits climbed 33 percent to $611 million from July to September as locked-down consumers gobbled up Hershey bars and Reese’s peanut butter cups — well before the height of the Halloween season.

“Our core US business remains healthy, as consumers reach for small treats during the pandemic and they continue to celebrate important rituals in their lives,” Hershey president and CEO Michele Buck said.

Net sales rose 4 percent to about $2.2 billion, driven by healthy jumps in sales for candy as well as baking items like chocolate chips and syrup as families spent more time cooking at home. The strong results sent Hershey shares up as much as 3.8 percent to $150.14 in Friday trading.

Hershey did have a sore spot in the third quarter: breath mints. Sales of its “refreshment” products tanked about 19 percent in the US because “the functional need for breath freshening has lessened with social distancing,” the company said.

Nevertheless, Hershey’s efforts to push Halloween candy early appeared to pay off — sales for the season rose “slightly” compared to last year at a time when candy sales overall dropped because of the coronavirus, according to Buck.

Halloween is Hershey’s biggest sales season, and it tried hard to keep sales up amid concerns about the safety of trick-or-treating. The company targeted ads to consumers based on whether they were likely to stay home or not and set up a “Hershey Happiness Hub” filled with ideas for how to celebrate safely.

Demand for Halloween candy was lower during the final two weeks leading up to the holiday, “but overall, the category showed resilience in a very volatile environment with COVID-19 case counts rising significantly across the country during the final week,” Buck said in a prepared statement.

With Post wires

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