July 24, 2018 / 5:54 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Chocolate maker Lindt confirms FY outlook as N.America growth improves

(Adds detail on growth, background)

ZURICH, July 24 (Reuters) - Swiss chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli said it was on track to achieve its growth target this year after organic growth accelerated in the first half, helped by an improvement in the difficult North American market.

However, challenges for the sector remain as chocolate consumption has been hit by a trend towards healthier snacking and changing shopping habits as consumers buy more online where they are less tempted to drop a chocolate bar in their shopping cart.

Net profit at the maker of Lindor chocolate balls rose 13 percent to 86 million Swiss francs ($86.59 million), just ahead of a forecast for 84.3 million in a Reuters poll.

Organic sales growth accelerated to 5.1 percent in the first half, from 3.7 percent in 2017, helped by an improvement in the important U.S. market, where the acquisition of Russell Stover had weighed on growth.

Organic growth in North America improved to 4.0 percent, after a negative development in 2017. Lindt said that Russell Stover, acquired in 2014, managed to stabilise its sales, with "only a modest dip in the first half".

Lindt confirmed it wanted to grow around 5 percent organically this year and also reiterated its target for 6-8 percent growth over the medium to long term. ($1 = 0.9932 Swiss francs) (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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