UPDATE 1-Hershey forecasts 2020 sales, profit largely above estimates

(Adds segment details, profit comparison)

Jan 30 (Reuters) - Hershey Co forecast 2020 profit and sales largely above Wall Street expectations on Thursday, after the candy maker posted sales that beat estimates on higher prices and investments in healthier snacking options.

The company has been diversifying its portfolio to cater to consumers who are staying away from calorie-rich chocolates for healthier snacking options.

The Reese’s peanut butter cup maker has spent more than $2 billion in acquisitions of food brands, including nutrition-bar maker One Brands, Skinny Pop maker Amplify Snack Brands and Smart Puffs maker Pirate Brands over the past two years.

Hershey has also been raising prices to counter the rising cost of ingredients and increased investments.

The company expects full-year profit to be in the range of $6.13 per share to $6.24 per share and net sales to increase between 2% and 4%.

Analysts on average had expected the company to earn $6.16 per share and net sales to rise 2.90% in 2020.

Net sales rose to $2.07 billion from $1.99 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, scraping past the average analyst estimate of $2.06 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Sales in North America, its biggest market, rose 3.8% to $1.81 billion, as salty snacks posted a 11.3% growth.

Excluding one-time items, the company earned $1.28 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate of $1.24 per share. (Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)