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Caribou Coffee (Nasdaq: CBOU  ) gets no respect. It's the Rodney Dangerfield of coffee stocks, and I think it's completely unfair.

Every barista's eye turned to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR  ) and its high-profile buyout of Diedrich Coffee over the past year. There's lots of drama inherent in buyout battles, and Peet's Coffee & Tea (Nasdaq: PEET  ) put up a good fight. But over the past year all three have delivered similar returns. Zoom out to a two-year checkup and Caribou is the biggest winner with a stunning 483% return. That's nearly a six-bagger in 24 months. Not too shabby!

Furthermore, the coffee shop chain just reported second-quarter results that tell me good things about Caribou's future. Compare and contrast with the competition:


Year-Over-Year Sales Growth (Latest Quarter)

Year-Over-Year EPS Growth (Latest Quarter)










Green Mountain



Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

I'd say that Caribou is holding its own with this lot. Caribou has shifted its attention from building company-owned coffee shops into a less capital-intensive franchise strategy. Same-store sales increased by a respectable 4.8%. Vast expanses of untouched land lay ahead of this chain -- most of the coffee shops sit around the Minnesota home base, and there isn't a single store -- franchised or otherwise -- in major markets like California, Texas, or Florida.

At the same time, the company is also expanding efforts to sell packaged goods like bags of roasted beans and Keurig K-Cup packages. Yep, the same K-Cups that launched Diedrich into celebrity orbit present a major growth opportunity for Caribou as well.

So, is Caribou the next Starbucks? It depends. I certainly wish I had bought some shares two years ago, but the franchise buildout isn't proceeding as fast as I would like. I mean, it's a seven-hour drive from my house to the nearest Caribou location, and no cup of black nectar is quite worth that kind of a road trip. There's lots of untapped opportunity here, folks.

Yet, there's something to be said for a slow-but-steady approach in uncertain economic times, which is why I love Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD  ) , for example. Caribou is much smaller than B-Dub and not as well-equipped to handle a sudden downturn in its fortunes. Some restraint seems prudent.

Is there room for another coffee chain in a world dominated by Starbucks and McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) ? I think so, and I am putting my All-Star CAPS rating where my mouth is. That one-star rating looks ridiculous, and you can help me bring justice to the world of coffee in just a couple of clicks.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Buffalo Wild Wings is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.

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  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2010, at 1:52 PM, lemoneater wrote:

    I wouldn't consider McDonald's coffee to be in the same class at all with Starbucks. Unfortunately, our nearby McDonalds doesn't consistently serve a good brew. It probably varies as to whether the worker on duty drinks coffee or not. At least Panera is close by and theirs is very good.

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