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    Hershey Looks To Strengthen Kisses

    Miniatures, Nuggets also need makeover, CEO says.

    Executives at The Hershey Co. are planning to change the packaging and merchandising of Hershey Kisses to reverse a downward sales trend, according to a report in The Patriot-News.

    By the end of 2007, consumer purchases of Hershey Kisses were down more than 7 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the prior year. For all of 2007, Kiss purchases dropped 3.6 percent.

    The dip in sales came despite a host of new flavored Kisses in recent years, the newspaper reported.

    It's not just Kisses that could change. Hershey President and CEO David J. West said Hershey Miniatures and Nuggets also need addressing. The packaging of the three product lines has changed little over the years, West said during a conference call when Hershey discussed its fourth-quarter results. But consumers have changed a lot.

    West said there is a need to "contemporize" the candies with merchandising and packaging improvements "to meet current and unmet needs" of consumers.

    In the past decade, the traditional Kiss has branched out beyond milk chocolate and almonds. Now there are peanut butter Kisses, caramel Kisses, cherry cordial Kisses, special dark Kisses and chocolate truffle Kisses. There were limited edition, New York Cheesecake-flavored creme Kisses. For last year's 100th birthday celebration, Hershey customized Kisses for retailers.

    The celebration and related marketing helped Kiss sales at the start of the year. But sales "reversed dramatically" in the fourth quarter, West acknowledged. He blamed the downturn on competitive activity and consumer trends to trade up to more premium chocolate products, the newspaper reported.

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