BOSTON ( TheStreet) --Its origins are unclear, but International Chocolate Day is still a great day for sweet-toothed investors to get a piece of the action.
For reasons as darkly shrouded as an 80% cocoa chocolate bar, today is a global chocolate holiday of the ilk usually conjured up by industry lobbies. Perhaps it's because Milton Hershey, the founder of Hershey (HSY), was born on this date in 1857. The day may also derive from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl, who was born today in 1916. Either way, it arrives as fortunes sweeten for many global confectioners amid ebbing economic instability.
Hershey, for example, increased net sales 3.2% last year. The maker of Hershey's chocolates, Reese's products, Kit Kat, 5th Avenue, Mounds, Almond Joy and Heath saw its share price jump 30%, from $36.22 in January to $51.76 on June 10 before settling around $46. That's worthy of Kisses all around.Hershey also produces Cadbury chocolates here in the U.S., but was outbid for the British confectioner by Kraft (KFT) in January. Kraft, meanwhile, has been buzzed on U.K.-grade Flake, Crunchie, Wispa, Curly Wurly and Picnic bars ever since -- with its share price rising from $27.43 in January to a high of $31.07 in July before coming down off its sugar rush at just below $31. Kraft's global net revenue increased 25.3% last quarter, with 22.8% growth from the Cadbury acquisition alone. Tootsie Roll Industries (TR) -- which makes its eponymous chocolate products, Tootsie Pops, Andes chocolates, Charleston Chew, Sugar Babies and Sugar Daddy -- has a more complex palate. Its share price is down 2% and sales are down 3% from the same period last year. The confectioner's overall sales this year are actually up 3% over last year. It's a small bit of growth, but a company that knows how many little licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop should know that every bit helps. Finally, though it doesn't make chocolate bars or other confections, J.M. Smucker's (SJM) is responsible for toppings such as Magic Shell, microwavable hot fudge, spoonable chocolate fudge and Andes chocolate mint. In first-quarter earnings announced last month, earnings per share were up 4% over last year, while the company's share price was up 13% from the same period after rising 40% last year. Our own Jake Lynch considered Smucker's a "boring but undervalued" stock last year, and it remains a deceptively sweet proposition today. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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