The Top 9 Most Efficient Food Companies

With the price of edibles like corn and coffee skyrocketing, you'd think the cost of food would be keeping pace. Yet so far, the bill for a square meal has remained pretty much the same. But according to the experts, it won't be long before we're eating the cost of the market's commodity climb.

Food prices are anticipated to rise anywhere between 2% and 3% in 2011 -- that's double the rate of increase we've seen in the current year. Granted, food prices have been historically low of late, exaggerating the jumps. But when you consider that recent price spikes in "soft" commodities (like corn and soybeans) have yet to be priced in, we may actually be looking at even higher hikes than initially forecast.

Unbeknownst to most consumers, wholesale costs have actually been on the rise for quite some time now. Up until now, retailers have opted to absorb the cost rather than pass it on, in the interest of remaining competitive. But in order to protect their bottom line, it looks like they're going to have to adjust, even at the risk of losing business.

With the recent consumer price hikes by industry giants like J.M. Smucker's and Starbucks, and McDonald's next in line, look for the trend to only continue.

How will rising food prices affect the stock prices of food companies? It's tough to say which companies are equipped to profit from these changing market conditions, but having a look at past efficiency can offer some interesting ideas ...

Companies with a demonstrated track record of efficiency might be more flexible in adapting to the changes in the food market. To find these companies, we started with a universe of food stocks, and then narrowed it down to nine companies that have had relatively high inventory and asset turnover ratios over the last 12 months.

Here are the food companies that made our cut -- do you think they'll be able to capitalize on the coming changes? (Click here to access free interactive tools to analyze these ideas.)

Profitability data sourced from Reuters. The list has been sorted alphabetically.

Company

Inventory Turnover (Trailing 12 Months)

Asset Turnover (Trailing 12 Months)

The Andersons (Nasdaq: ANDE  )

12.56 vs. industry avg. of 1.09

2.71 vs. industry avg. of 0.13

Bunge Ltd. (NYSE: BG  )

7.36 vs. industry avg. of 2.71

1.96 vs. industry avg. of 0.61

Cal-Maine Foods (Nasdaq: CALM  )

7.46 vs. industry avg. of 1.09

1.55 vs. industry avg. of 0.13

Chiquita Brands International (NYSE: CQB  )

14.41 vs. industry avg. of 1.09

1.63 vs. industry avg. of 0.13

Flowers Foods (NYSE: FLO  )

13.9 vs. industry avg. of 2.71

1.91 vs. industry avg. of 0.61

J&J Snack Foods (Nasdaq: JJSF  )

8.65 vs. industry avg. of 2.71

1.52 vs. industry avg. of 0.61

Lancaster Colony Corporation (Nasdaq: LANC  )

7.02 vs. industry avg. of 2.49

1.95 vs. industry avg. of 0.57

Lance (Nasdaq: LNCE  )

10.15 vs. industry avg. of 2.71

1.82 vs. industry avg. of 0.61

Peet's Coffee & Tea (Nasdaq: PEET  )

4.55 vs. industry avg. of 2.71

1.70 vs. industry avg. of 0.61

Interactive Chart: Press Play to see how analyst opinions have changed on all the stocks mentioned above.


Disclosure: Kapitall's Eben Esterhuizen and Alicia Sellitti do not own shares of any companies mentioned.

Peet's Coffee & Tea is a Motley Fool Big Short short-sale recommendation. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Flowers Foods is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. The Fool owns shares of Cal-Maine Foods. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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