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Halloween sugar rush sweetens Hershey's 2021 outlook

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A Hershey's chocolate bar is shown in this photo illustration in Encinitas
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By Mehr Bedi

(Reuters) - Hershey Co raised its annual forecasts for sales and profit on Thursday after posting better-than expected results, benefiting from strong demand for its chocolates and candies during its "biggest ever" Halloween season.

Demand for the company's products such as Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and KitKat chocolates strengthened around the October holiday after the pandemic curtailed trick-or-treating events last year.

"As we head into the final days of Halloween, sales and sell through are both looking strong... We expect this strength to flow into the holiday season as more family gatherings occur this year," Chief Executive Officer Michele Buck said.

The company said category sales in early and mid-season rose 18% compared with last year, and 12% versus 2019, with trick-or-treat participation also expected to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.

Consumer spending on Halloween-related items is anticipated to reach an all-time high of $10.14 billion this year, versus the $8.05 billion in 2020, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

Like other packaged food makers, Hershey has been raising prices in recent months to offset rising costs for raw materials and freight due to global supply chain disruptions triggered by the pandemic.

The chocolate maker said elevated consumer demand was expected to offset the higher costs.

Hershey forecast 2021 net sales to grow 8% to 9%, higher than its previous range of growth between 6% and 8%.

It also expects adjusted earnings per share to range between $6.98 and $7.11, higher than the prior $6.79-$6.92 outlook.

Net sales rose about 6.3% to $2.34 billion in the third quarter, compared with estimates of $2.33 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

On an adjusted basis, Hershey earned $2.10 per share, beating estimates of $2.00.

(Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; editing by Arpan Varghese)

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