HERSHEY TO JOIN HOLIDAY RUSH FOR BOXED CANDIES;POT OF GOLD BRAND IS ITS FIRST SUCH PRODUCT IN U.S.

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Hershey Foods Corp. is introducing Pot of Gold, its first-ever boxed candies in the U.S., in time for the peak season for gift chocolates.

Already marketed in Canada, Pot of Gold's U.S. entry will be supported with an estimated $3 million to $5 million in advertising from DDB Needham Worldwide, New York.

This is DDB Needham's third new-product assignment from Hershey this year, following Sweet Escapes and Tasteations.

`CONVENIENCE ORIENTED'

"Whitman's and Russell Stover dominate in mass merchandisers and drug channels," said a candy industry executive familiar with the introduction, and those areas are where Hershey is weakest. The marketer is "more convenience and grocery store oriented."

Although Hershey wouldn't discuss the new line, it's believed the company will decide whether Pot of Gold will be seasonal or available year-round depending on the success of holiday sales.

Ads start in November, and will be concentrated during November and December, when the bulk of the print and TV campaign will run.

The yearend holidays account for 10% of all candy sales, followed by Valentine's Day.

According to IRI, boxed chocolate sales are on the rise. For the year ended Aug. 11, boxed chocolate sales rose 11.8%, to $143 million.

Russell Stover Inc. controls the market with a combined 66.9% share held by its Russell Stover and Whitman's brands.

Contributing: Joanne Ingrassia, Toronto.

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