The Chocolate War, Revisited

With the smell of chocolate filling the suburbs today, we take a look at back at our Halloween 1999 Duel in which Paul Larson (TMF Parlay) and I (Rick Aristotle Munarriz aka TMF Edible) pitted Hershey(NYSE: HSY) against Tootsie Roll(NYSE: TR).

In a tricky market, both stocks proved to be treats. Since our Duel, Hershey shares have risen 33% while Tootsie Roll has climbed 25% higher. Relatively speaking, those are healthy gains for a sector doling out unhealthy foodstuffs.

Hershey is in the process of a makeover right now. The chocolate empire that Milton Hershey built announced last week that it will be focusing on its core Hershey Kisses and chocolate bar lines as well as its Reese's products. Layoffs and plant closures are in the cards as the company begins to weed out non-productive candy lines. Yes, Hershey had built up a pretty big portfolio over the years. The Duel you are about to read gets into a lot of them. But as late as last year, the company had also scooped up Nabisco's gum and mint business.

Not to be outdone in the mint niche, Tootsie Roll followed by acquiring the Andes line from Brach's earlier this year. Still, Tootsie Roll remains far smaller than Hershey, apparently by choice. While the numbers you will run across in the Duel are from 1999, the dynamics still hold true today. Tootsie Roll remains the margin leader, with net margins just above the 17% mark. Meanwhile, Hershey is still the undisputed cocoa juggernaut stateside.

So, open up your bag -- nice and wide -- and be treated to a Halloween blast from the past. Just don't forget to brush after reading.

 - - Rick Aristotle Munarriz

The Chocolate War Duel

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