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2013 Power 50: John P. Bilbrey, No. 13 in Suppliers

John P. Bilbrey
John P. Bilbrey

Led by John Bilbrey, Hershey Co. has been investing in itself. The manufacturer upped its advertising budget by 20% since 2008.

“We believe that putting strong, effective marketing support behind our brands is key to driving the consumer affinity and purchase of our brands,” Hershey’s president and CEO said.

“We have very effective and likeable advertising behind a wide range of our key brands supporting our base business, new products as well as international growth.”

The marketing has been paying off with consumers.

“A Millward Brown ad awareness index indicates that our ads test among the best in food and beverage, and confectionery overall with Reese’s, Kisses and Hershey’s brands all in the top 10% of all food and confectionery brands.”

A recent consumer survey by Brand Keys found, that out of 197 brands, Hershey’s tied with Coca-Cola in 2nd place for “patriotism.”

This year, the company is using television advertising to promote the Brookside brand that Hershey acquired in December 2011.

As of February, Hershey expanded distribution of the Brookside line — which includes artisan-style snacks like Dark Chocolate Acai With Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Goji With Raspberry — across the U.S.

“As a result of our efforts, Brookside has been growing in all channels, including the club channel where the brand was already in-store. And consumer response has been very positive.”


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While Hershey is moving forward with new products, Bilbrey still values the traditional chocolate bars the supplier is known for.

Bilbrey’s personal favorite Hershey products? Payday and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate With Almonds.

With this balance of old and new, Hershey’s sales continue to rise. Net sales were up 5.5%, Bilbrey said in an April investors meeting, noting that growth was driven mostly by volume.

“Our performance over the past several years has enabled us to make significant and meaningful investments in our business that position us for transformational growth in the years ahead,” Bilbrey told SN.

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“These investments include our growing international business, where we expect net sales outside of the U.S. and Canada to grow 15% to 20% in 2013.”

By 2014, Hershey expects to hit $1 billion in international net sales, with China, Mexico and Brazil leading the international market.

By 2017, Bilbrey has even bigger goals for Hershey.

“We are on our way to our goal of $10 billion in net sales by 2017. We will continue to focus on our key strategies, which include strengthening our position in North America as we grow our international focus markets.”

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