Hershey Raises Prices, Reaffirms Outlook

HERSHEY, Penn. ( TheStreet) -- Hershey ( HSY) said late Wednesday it will raise wholesale prices on most of its products sold in the U.S.

Hershey said a weighted average price increase of around 9.7% will be added to its instant consumable, multi-pack, packaged candy and grocery lines, effective immediately.

"These changes will help offset part of the significant increases in Hershey's input costs, including raw materials, packaging, fuel, utilities and transportation," the company said."

"Given this timing and some higher than anticipated costs, we do not expect this action to materially impact our financial expectations this year," CEO David J. West said. "We expect the majority of the financial benefit from this pricing action to impact our earnings in 2012."

Hershey shares closed 0.2% lower to $54.69 in Wednesday's session. The stock was up less than 0.1% in after-hours trading.

Hershey reiterated its outlook for 2011 adjusted earnings per share to increase around 6% to 8%, or between a range of $2.70 and $2.75 per share. Net sales are expected to grow near the top end of the company's long-term 3% to 5% goal, to between $5.84 billion and $5.95 billion.

In 2010 Hershey earned an adjusted $2.55 per share on sales of $5.67 billion.

Analysts' consensus is for the confections maker to earn $2.78 per share on sales of $5.95 billion in 2011.

A number of food companies have recently reported that higher ingredient and commodity costs have pressured their results in recent quarters as global food prices continue to rise.

Companies including McDonald's ( MCD), PepsiCo ( PEP), Kraft Foods ( KFT) and Starbucks ( SBUX) have all said their financial results were impacted by higher commodity costs on everything from wheat and sugar to coffee beans and fuel.

J.M. Smucker ( SJM) and Panera Bread ( PNRA), along with a roster of food companies, have already implemented price increases to help offset those costs.

Spice maker McCormick ( MKC) also implemented price increases to offset rising raw and packaging material costs.

ConAgra Foods ( CAG) said high wheat input costs necessitated price increases for its flour-milling operations.

Kellogg ( K) recently raised prices on brands such as Eggo waffles, Keebler cookies and Pop-Tarts, as well as many of its cereal brands to help offset rising ingredient costs. In its recent earnings report the maker of Corn Flakes cereal, Cheez-It crackers and Famous Amos cookies said it plans to raise prices again in 2011 in a range of 3% to 4%. It also hopes to sell a more favorable mix of higher-priced food items, products which boast wider margins.

Sara Lee ( SLE) input costs continue to rise in its North American bakery business, and it was preparing for "further price increases in the back half of the year to offset additional cost increases." In its international beverage operations, Sara Lee said it continues to pass higher commodity costs onto consumers.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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