Business digest: Hershey says new chocolate spreads are ‘snack enhancer’

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Posted: Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:10 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

NEW YORK — Americans apparently like smearing their foods with chocolatey spreads.

The Hershey Co. on Wednesday said it was introducing a line of chocolate spreads, including a hazelnut variety reminiscent of Nutella, a spread made by the Italian company Ferrero.

The move points to the strong growth in the category; over the past five years, sales of Nutella in the U.S. have more than tripled to $240.4 million, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.

In 2012, J.M. Smucker Co. also got into the game with its Jif hazelnut spreads.

Hershey wants people to try putting the chocolate spread on a variety of foods, saying in a statement that it’s a “snack enhancer” for items such as graham crackers, strawberries, pineapples and even pickles.

Anna Lingeris, a Hershey spokeswoman, said Hershey will feature the “endless possibilities” for its spreads in national TV ads.

“People are seeing the permission to try it on carrots and try it on celery,” she said. — AP

WASHINGTON — Putting a finishing touch on his second-term Cabinet, President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Maria Contreras-Sweet, the founder of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles and a former California Cabinet secretary, to be head of the Small Business Administration.

Obama praised Contreras-Sweet, who immigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old, as a “champion of women-owned and family-owned businesses.”

Contreras-Sweet, born in Guadalajara, Mexico, has a history of working with small businesses and has been an advocate for Hispanics. As California’s secretary of the state’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2003, she was the first Latina to serve as a Cabinet secretary in the state and oversaw 40,000 state employees and a $12 billion budget.

In 2006, she founded ProAmerica Bank, a financial institution that aimed to assist small and midsize businesses. Before that, she was president and co-founder of a private equity firm that provided capital to small California businesses.

“Maria knows how hard it is to get started on a business,” Obama said. “The grueling hours, the stress, the occasional self-doubt, although I have not yet seen self-doubt out of Maria. She knows it herself.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Contreras-Sweet would fill the last vacant Obama Cabinet slot, filling the SBA administrator’s position formerly occupied by Karen Mills, who left in August.

Contreras-Sweet would become the second Hispanic in Obama’s second-term Cabinet. The other is Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. — AP

The Federal Reserve said “moderate” growth across most of the country last month was buoyed by gains in holiday spending by consumers, an improving labor market and strength in manufacturing.

“The economic outlook is positive in most districts, with some reports citing expectations of ‘more of the same’ and some expecting a pickup in growth,” the Fed said Wednesday in its Beige Book business survey, based on reports gathered on or before Jan. 6.

Nine of 12 Fed districts grew at a moderate pace, up from seven in the previous report, released on Dec. 4. Two districts said growth was modest, down from four. — Bloomberg News

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is recalling 27,933 Edge crossovers in the U.S. because a damper in the fuel line could crack and cause fuel leaks.

The recall involves Edges from the 2012 and 2013 model years with 2.0-liter engines. The vehicles were produced between September 2010 and April 2013.

Ford said an improper manufacturing process could cause the damper to crack, resulting in fuel odor or leakage. Fuel leaks can lead to a fire.

Ford said it discovered the problem through warranty claims. There have been no reports of fires or injuries related to the defect. — AP

WASHINGTON — Federal officials have filed a formal complaint charging that Walmart violated the rights of protesting and striking workers last year.

The National Labor Relations Board says Walmart illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in legally protected activities to complain about wages and working conditions.

The labor board’s general counsel first laid out the charges last November but held off on filing a complaint while trying to work out a settlement. The company has insisted its actions were legal and justified. — AP

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