Chocolate maker Hershey's sales fall more than expected again

(Reuters) - Hershey Co HSY.N, the maker of Hershey's Kisses and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, reported a steeper-than-expected drop in net sales for the third quarter in a row, hurt by weak demand in North America, the chocolate maker's biggest market.

The company also said it bought barkTHINS chocolate maker Ripple Brand Collective LLC for an undisclosed amount.

BarkTHINS, which has a non-GMO certification and uses no artificial flavors or preservatives, is expected to record sales of about $65 million to $75 million in 2016, Hershey said.

Hershey’s net sales in North America, which accounts for about 85 percent of total sales, fell 4.3 percent, in the first quarter ended April 3, notching their first decline in five quarters.

Consumers in the United States are increasingly becoming more calorie-conscious. They have also developed a taste for premium chocolate such as Lindt & Spruengli LISN.S, partly offseting the extra cost with less frequent purchases.

Hershey’s total sales fell 5.6 percent to $1.83 billion, while analysts were expecting $1.90 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income fell to $229.8 million, or $1.06 per share, from $244.7 million, or $1.10 per share. Excluding items, it earned $1.10 per share.

Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Savio D’Souza