Time to Get This Sweet Stock on Your Radar

Time to Get This Sweet Stock on Your Radar

Chocolate leader Hershey seems to have had quite a sweet last quarter. In the long run, however, is it better than peers Nestle and Mondelez ? Let's take a look at its future plans and find out.

Recent numbers
At $1.85 billion , Hershey's net sales in its last quarter were up 6.1% year over year. Diluted net earnings for the quarter amounted to $1.04 per share, up 19.5% from the previous year. Innovation, growth in international markets and high volumes have been the main drivers of growth for Hershey in its last quarter. The company also benefited from a decline in commodity costs, efficiency in the supply chain and cost cutting.

For the rest of the year, Hershey remains optimistic, especially for the upcoming holiday season. New offers and promotions are also in the offing. Full year sales are expected to grow at 7%, with a 14% rise in earnings per share.

Compared to Nestle, Hershey's performance in the last quarter looks quite good. While Nestle may have reported a pick-up in its overall group sales, confectionery sales proved disappointing in its last quarter. At $2.9 billion (2612 million CHF), Nestle's confectionery sales remained flat.

Future plans
For the next few quarters, Hershey has quite a few new products in the pipeline, Hershey's spreads and York Minis among them. Another brand, Lancaster soft cremes, is set to hit the US market in beginning 2014. Featuring a range of caramel soft cremes, the brand has been inspired by Milton Hershey's original venture, the Lancaster Caramel Company.

A major focus point for Hershey's future plans is global expansion, particularly in the Asian economies. By the end of 2014, the company plans to reach the $1 billion mark in international sales.

The demand from emerging markets has been so strong that Hershey is investing $250 million in building a new plant at Johor in Malaysia to meet consumer needs. The company already has a joint venture plant in China. To be completed by 2015, the Malaysian plant will help increase Hershey's foothold in the emerging nations.

The Chinese story
China, thanks to its ever expanding middle class, has also been a major market for the company. In May this year, Hershey launched its latest brand Lancaster, in China. This is the first time that a brand has been launched abroad, before it is announced in the US market. That Hershey is so keen on grabbing the Chinese market is no surprise, especially given what its peers are upto. Nestle has over 27 factories in the Greater China region and is known for the strong demand for its products in the mainland. In fact, Nestle holds the highest market share in infant formula in the mainland, as in most of the emerging markets. Recently, it acquired a 60% stake in China's biggest confectioner Hsu Fu Chi. In July, Nestle announced the opening of two more factories in China.

Count me in
Mondelez, the maker of Cadbury and Oreo Cookies, also has a huge market in China. In June, Mondelez invested approximately $85 million in the expansion of its biscuit plant in China. The company has plans to undertake white-space investments in the region. The launch of Stride gum in September this year is one such example. The company's future plans include massive expansion in the emerging nations funded by expanding margins. Mondelez intends to increase investment in the region by $200 million in 2014 and $300 million in 2015 and beyond. Improving supply chain productivity is also on the cards.

Foolish bottom line
For the future, Hershey looks promising, especially given its expansion plans in emerging markets. New product launches, acquisitions and joint ventures are expected to give a boost to its international sales, which is expected to grow by double digits in 2014. Overall, the company expects sales growth of 5%-7%. With shares in the company already up 31% year to date, the sooner you get in, the better.

As for Nestle, the "world's fifth most beloved brand " is doing everything right. Initiatives like launching of an Android Kitkat and new launches like Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups will prove to be beneficial for the company. Overall, consistent revenue growth, innovative marketing strategies and geographical diversification make it an attractive and stable company.

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The article Time to Get This Sweet Stock on Your Radar originally appeared on Fool.com.

Sonam Chamaria has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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