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Hugs are just as sweet as Kisses at Hershey Chocolate USA.

Just last August, the nation's No. 1 confectioner introduced Hugs, Hershey's Kisses "hugged" in white chocolate. By yearend, the product already was hailed as one of the most successful new-product introductions in Hershey's 99-year history.

According to Information Resources Inc., Hugs garnered $52.7 million in sales from drug stores, mass merchandisers and supermarkets for the 52 weeks ended March 27.

The new-product team-led by Kathleen Rhyne, brands manager at the time-also encased Hugs in delightfully spare, stop-motion animation TV commercials featuring the product lookalikes, the creation of Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

A bagful of successful introductions-including Hershey's Cookies 'n' Mint chocolate bar, Amazin' Fruit gummy bears and the newer Reese's Nutrageous-have driven Hershey's growing share of the $5.8 billion confectionary business, as rivals' sales have slumped.

Credit also goes to Dennis Eshleman, marketing director, who was promoted to general manager of Hershey's new grocery division in January.

That's the same month Ms. Rhyne was named new products manager-chocolate confectionary. Success is sweet.

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