Hershey CEO J.P. Bilbrey to Step Down

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Chief executive officer of Hershey, John P. Bilbrey, smiles as he stands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (Copyright Reuters 2016)

Hershey said Chief Executive J.P. Bilbrey will retire from his post in July, as the candy maker works to adapt to changing consumer tastes. 

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The move comes just months after Oreo cookie maker Mondelez International Inc. ended its pursuit of the chocolatier after its latest acquisition offer was rebuffed, ending a takeover campaign. 

Mr. Bilbrey joined Hershey in 2003 and became chief executive in 2011. He will remain chairman and the company said it would launch a search for its next CEO. 

Chocolate and candy sales in the U.S. have been pressured by the health-and-wellness push. To adapt, Hershey recently introduced dried meat bars, made from dried meats and a combination of other ingredients such as mangos, cranberries and quinoa. 

The company also reaffirmed its full year outlook. 

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Shares of the company, which have risen 1.4% in the past 12 months, were inactive premarket. 

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Write to Austen Hufford at austen.hufford@wsj.com