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The Hershey Company (HSY - Analyst Report) recently discussed its financial outlook and plans for the year at the 2014 Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) conference on Feb 20.

Maintains 2014 Outlook

At the conference, Hershey reaffirmed its 2014 outlook. The company expects to meet its long term targets in 2014. Adjusted earnings per share are expected in the range of $4.05–$4.13, representing 9%-11% year over year growth, and in line with the long-term goals.

Net sales growth in 2014 is expected to be within the long-term target range of 5%–7% (including currency headwinds) driven mainly by volume growth. In 2014, the company will continue to focus on core brands, launch several new products (both in the U.S. and international markets), and leverage Hershey's scale at retail.

Further, Hershey plans to accelerate investments in international markets in 2014. International sales are expected to grow in double digits in 2014, helped by acquisitions and joint ventures as well as investments to boost organic growth. These efforts are expected to continue to drive both top- and bottom-line growth next year.

Gross margin is expected to expand 50 bps in 2014 driven by input cost deflation, higher productivity and greater fixed cost leverage.  

New Products for 2014

During the conference, the company mentioned that Brookside Crunchy Clusters and Ice Breakers Cool Blasts chews are some of the new products scheduled for 2014. In fact, the company mentioned that Brookside will be the company’s sixth global brand. Other global brands include Hershey’s, Reese’s, Hershey’s Kisses, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers.  The company has already introduced Hershey’s Spreads and Lancaster Soft Crèmes so far in 2014.

In a separate press release, Hershey announced that its board of directors approved an additional $250 million stock repurchase authorization.

Hershey currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).   

Other companies that warrant investor attention include The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN - Analyst Report), J&J Snack Foods Corp. (JJSF - Snapshot Report) and Post Holdings, Inc. (POST - Snapshot Report). All the three companies carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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