Hershey (HSY) revealed stronger-than-expected performance on the top- and bottom-lines in the fourth quarter, led by robust U.S. demand for its core brands.

The Hershey, Penn.-based chocolate company on Thursday posted net income of $149.9 million, or 66 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $142.1 million, or 62 cents.

Excluding special items, Hershey said it earned 74 cents a share, two cents more than analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting. 

Revenue for the three-month period was $1.75 billion, up from $1.57 billion a year ago, trumping the Street’s view of $1.71 billion.

The maker of Reese’s and Almond Joy reaffirmed its fiscal 2013 sales outlook of a year-over-year increase between 5% and 7% and raised its EPS guidance to a range of $3.47 to $3.56, below the consensus view of $3.59 a share.

“Hershey’s fourth quarter financial and marketplace results represent a strong finish to 2012 and validate our strategy of focusing investments in the U.S. and key international geographies,” said Hershey CEO John Bilbrey.

The candy maker said sales in the current year will be driven by core brand volume growth, the U.S. launch of the Brookside product line, which Hershey acquired in December 2011, as well as new products such as Kit Kat Minis and Twizzlers Bites.

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