Hershey Foods Corp. (HSY) is raising candy bar prices by nearly 6 percent, but customers will get a reprieve on some price hikes until Valentine's Day (search), the company said on Thursday.

The higher prices are necessary because of increased costs for raw and packaging materials, fuel, utilities, transportation and employee benefits, it said.

The wholesale price of a standard-sized candy bar will rise 5.8 percent, with the price of packaged chocolates rising 4.1 percent on average.

Overall, the changes translate into a 3 percent price increase panies, including General Mills Inc. (GSI) and several coffee companies, that have raised prices in order to cope with higher costs. Food companies have had trouble getting price increases through in the past as large retailers, including discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), have resisted higher prices.

Hershey said that from now through Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, existing retail customers may order and take delivery of up to 12 weeks worth of candy bars at current prices.

Hershey shares fell 33 cents to $56.25 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).