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After 100 years of sweet success, Hershey Foods Corp. is turning to its flagship chocolate bars to salute the company's heritage.

To mark the centennial of the food/confections marketer and theme park operator, Hershey this month starts shipping limited-edition versions of Hershey's milk chocolate and milk chocolate with almond bars. That will launch a yearlong celebration that includes a multimillion-dollar promotion for the famous candy bars.

The 100th anniversary bars will carry four imprinted designs commemorating the Hershey heritage, all wrapped in replicas of the bar's 1900s label.

Milton Hershey began making chocolate in 1894, introduced the Hershey's milk chocolate bar in 1900 and Hershey's milk chocolate with almonds eight years later.

"It's one of the few brands a nostalgia promotion would work on," said a confections buyer for a major West Coast distributor that supplies convenience stores. "We think it's going to generate consumer interest and bump up sales."

National TV and print ads will support from Ogilvy & Mather, New York. A national free standing insert in newspapers with a total circulation of 50 million will drop Feb. 20. A national magazine essay contest and regional and local radio trivia contests will also be used. A vintage poster will be promoted at store displays.

An extensive public relations effort will be themed "The Hershey centennial-an American celebration of childhood memories."

"The centennial is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company," a Hershey spokeswoman said. "The chocolate division is the largest part of the company, so it makes sense for us to promote the Hershey's milk chocolate bar and almond bar because they are the flagship brands for the corporation."

The anniversary promotion will begin about the time Hershey starts rolling out Reese's NutRageous, a peanuts, chocolate, caramel and peanut butter bar. It is the first candy bar under the Reese's name.

NutRageous likely will compete with No. 2 M&M/Mars' Peanut Butter Snickers and PB Max.

A multimillion-dollar campaign will support, including spots on late night and cable TV, national magazine ads, an FSI and coupons, via DDB Needham Worldwide.M

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