Hershey’s turnaround came at the right time


CNBC’s Jim Cramer praised Hershey leadership for engineering a turnaround story for the iconic sweets company — a turnaround he says came at exactly the right time.

The stock has had a “magnificent” 28.96% run in 2019, but could be nearing a peak, Cramer said. Still, the household name is worth keeping on the shopping list.

“I salute CEO Michele Buck for masterminding this tremendous turnaround,” the “Mad Money” host said. “But with Hershey at $138 and investors no longer craving safety, I think you should wait for a pullback before you pull the trigger.”

After trading flat at around $100 per share for years, Hershey staged a comeback by diversifying its core business, cutting costs, focusing on the best foreign markets and promoting Buck from chief operating officer, Cramer said. The stock gained more than $20 per share in 2019, partly due to Wall Street concerns of an economic slowdown, which sends investors buying up defensive stocks.

“The company’s relatively new management team has been executing on a very smart turnaround plan for the past couple of years, and their moves are finally paying off,” Cramer said. “When everyone was worrying about a possible recession, Hershey was the perfect safe-haven. A nice, consistent, domestically-focused candy company with a solid yield currently at 2.1%.”

The centenarian candy corporation counts Reese’s, Kit Kat, Almond Joy and Twizzlers brands under its umbrella. The company added several snack brands to its portfolio, as well, as cocoa costs climbed and consumer tastes changed. Hershey owns brands including Pirate Booty-maker Pirate Brands and SkinnyPop popcorn producer Amplify Snack Brands.

Buck, Cramer highlighted, said in February “these brands add additional depth and incrementality to our already amazing portfolio of brands.” A string of acquisitions allowed Hershey to find modest single-digit revenue growth, the host added.

In its April quarterly report, Hershey delivered shareholders a top- and bottom-line beat, with 2% organic sales growth and nearly 13% earnings growth. SkinnyPop alone grew at an 11% clip, Cramer noted.

Cramer said Hershey, currently valued at more than $37 billion, can keep innovating as it does with new variations of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to stay on top.

Hershey saw growth in its latest quarter “because management executed better than they’d predicted and the company had a very strong Easter, which matters because they own the distribution rights for Cadbury,” he said.

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