(Bloomberg) -- Switzerland’s Lindt & Spruengli AG plans a 200 million-franc ($200 million) U.S. investment offensive to further challenge Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. in that market.

The maker of Lindor chocolate balls is expanding a plant in Stratham, New Hampshire, over the next four years, constructing high-tech production lines for premium chocolate, the company said Tuesday. The site will eventually have more than 1 million square feet of space for production, storage and distribution.

After years of stagnation, the U.S. chocolate market is perking up. Lindt reported a 4 percent increase in adjusted sales in North America in the first half as it added more displays to advertise its Lindor and Excellence brands in shops. The Kilchberg-based company became the third-largest chocolate maker in the U.S. when it bought Russell Stover in 2014, a purchase that weighed on sales growth as Lindt spent years weeding out less profitable products.

The American chocolate market has been challenging to companies like Nestle SA, which exited the U.S. by selling its confectionery unit there to Ferrero SpA.

Russell Stover’s revenue stabilized to a “modest dip” in the first half, supported by demand for a sugar-free range introduced in late 2017. Lindt said it’s on track to achieve its target of about 5 percent organic sales growth this year and that first-half operating profit rose 12 percent, in line with analysts’ estimates.

(Updates with outlook in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Corinne Gretler in Zurich at cgretler1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at epfanner1@bloomberg.net, Thomas Mulier

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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