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Americans love chocolate. The U.S. is the world's chocolate-consuming capital, using a little more than 500,000 tonnes of cocoa for chocolate candy annually, according to the National Confectioners Association -- that's 13% of the world's annual cocoa production, or two-thirds of total U.S. cocoa consumption.

Though it's a mature market, as quarterly results at Hershey (NYSE: HSY  ) show, there's still room to grow. Second-quarter net sales were up 7% to $1.5 billion, driven by strong increases in the U.S., which were at the high end of its historical growth rates, and the chocolatier continues to view the domestic market as a growth opportunity.

Candy, mint, and gum account for about 90% of Hershey's U.S. retail business and saw gains of 6.8% in the quarter, which also led it to gain an additional 1.4% of market share, giving it nearly half of the entire market and putting it well ahead of second-place Mars, which is privately held. Nestle (NASDAQOTH: NSRGY  ) is a distant third with just a 6% share, and while Mondelez (NASDAQ: MDLZ  ) is a major chocolate player following the acquisition of Cadbury (and subsequent separation from Kraft Foods), it's primarily an international candy and snacks company.

And Mondelez is a company that Hershey is likely to start bumping heads with soon, as it also has plans for global conquest that look just as sweet. 

This past quarter, Hershey saw its international business grow in line with internal forecasts, but with China, Mexico, and Brazil being particular standouts, as net sales grew at double-digit rates compared to last year. China alone saw sales expand 11%, and Hershey has already achieved a 7% market share there. With the launch of a new product specifically targeted to the Chinese market called Lancaster, Hershey is expecting its chocolate business to grow at least four to five times greater than the entire category, which is currently worth about $1.2 billion.

In Mexico, it gained 1.2 points of share as the modern trade, or supermarkets and hypermarkets, almost doubled the category rate. Brazil saw low double digits as well.

The confectioners trade group says grindings demand, which is industryspeak for the processing of cocoa beans and is in turn an indicator for commercial demand, jumped 12% in the second quarter in the U.S., far ahead of the 6% increase seen in the first quarter and well ahead of analyst forecasts of just a 3% to 4% rise. European grindings demand was up 6% in the second quarter as well.

With growth opportunities still showing up here at home and new markets around the globe -- particularly China, which it deems to be its top international priority -- Hershey has a chance to build on the gains it's already made without its stock becoming a chocolatey mess.


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  • Report this Comment On March 28, 2014, at 7:05 AM, sofiacaden wrote:

    Estee Lauder, Hershey’s and Hormel Foods have outperformed their peers with their historic earnings growth rates, and analysts expect these companies to keep posting higher than average growth in the future as well

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Rich Duprey
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Rich has been a Fool since 1998 and writing for the site since 2004. After 20 years of patrolling the mean streets of suburbia, he hung up his badge and gun to take up a pen full time.

Having made the streets safe for Truth, Justice and Krispy Kreme donuts, he now patrols the markets looking for companies he can lock up as long-term holdings in a portfolio. So follow me on Facebook and Twitter for the most important industry news in retail and consumer products and other great stories.

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