This is a sequel to "Why Procter & Gamble is Underrated." If you haven't read that article yet, you might want to breeze through it quickly prior to heading back here. You didn't budge, did you? That's OK. The focus of this article will be on innovation, as well as whether or not Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) presents a better investment option than Church & Dwight (NYSE: CHD) or Unilever (NYSE: UL). That's some serious competition, so it should be interesting.

More accolades, please
Procter & Gamble has long been known for its strength in the personal products space, but not many people think of it as an innovative company. This is a misconception, simply because most people think of GEGoogle, or Apple when the word "innovation" is mentioned. This is just a different type of innovation -- a type of innovation that matches the company's consumer demands.

IRI -- known as the industry benchmark for new product launches -- has published a pacesetters list for 18 years. Throughout those 18 years, Procter & Gamble has had 148 products in the Top 25 in the non-food category. This is more than Procter & Gamble's six largest competitors combined. Let that sink in for a moment. Procter & Gamble has also had its products in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots six times in the same year.

In 2012, the following Procter & Products made the Top 10 on IRI's list:

  • Crest Complete Multi Benefit (No. 5)
  • Febreeze CAR Vent Clips (No. 8)
  • Olay Body Collections (No. 9)

The following Procter & Gamble products made the Top 25:

  • Downy UNSTOPPABLES (No. 11)
  • Pampers Sensitive Wipes (No. 12)
  • Clairol Nice 'n Easy Color Foam (No. 14)

Additionally, the following Procter & Gamble products made IRI's "Rising Stars" list:

  • Tampax/Always Radiant
  • Puffs Basics
  • Secret Outlast
  • Tide PODS
  • ZZZQuill

Recent innovations
Procter & Gamble's continuous innovation is what makes the company so impressive. Consider recent innovations:

  • ME+: first hair dye to offer full color performance with reduced risk of allergy
  • Gucci Made to Measure: sophisticated and masculine fragrance
  • Wella Color.id: for salon professionals, perfectly blended color with no foils or separators
  • Pro-X by Olay Microdermabrasion + Advanced Cleansing System: professional skin care at home for a fraction of the price
  • North America Baby Care: upgrades across all diaper lines
  • Duracell Quantum: Duracell's most powerful premium-tier and longest-lasting battery
  • Swiffer BISSELL STEAMBOAT: combines Swiffer and steam for greater visibility

Other innovative products launched in 2013 include Ariel Pods, Secret Clinical Strength Stress Response, Gillette Venus, Gillette Sensitive, and Bounty Dura Towel.

However, Procter & Gamble isn't the only personal products company that's innovating.

Unilever innovations
Unilever is like the U.K. version of Procter & Gamble, and it's also constantly innovating. Here are some of its most recent innovations:

  • Lifebouy Active Natural Shield: 10 times better germ protection, 10 times more skin care compared to other leading germ protection products
  • Dove VisibleCare: cleanses skin while also making it look more vibrant
  • Unique Rexona for Women with Motionsense: delivers bursts of fragrance as you move throughout the day
  • Dove Spa Strength Within: food supplements with nutrient blend clinically proven to reduce appearance of lines and wrinkling
  • Lipton SunTea: refreshing tea made from the tap
  • Fire-Freeze Toothpaste: reduce bad breath with warming sensation, followed by long-lasting cooling freshness

Now you have to ask yourself which list of innovative products is more interesting to you as a consumer. Would you purchase any of these products? 

Church & Dwight has a different focus
Church & Dwight is also an innovative company, but not to the same extent as Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Church & Dwight's brand portfolio sells itself as it is, including Arm & Hammer, First Response, L'il Critters, Nair, Trojan, Spinbrush, OxiClean, Vitafusion, and Xtra.

Church & Dwight focuses on TSR -- total shareholder returns. This pertains to increased stock appreciation combined with dividend payments. The ultimate goal for Church & Dwight is to deliver outstanding TSR relative to the S&P 500. It has succeeded. Let's see how Church & Dwight has fared compared to peers in this regard:

UL Total Return Price Chart

UL Total Return Price data by YCharts

It has been the top performer. Church & Dwight also has long-term goals of organic revenue of 3%-4%, gross margin expansion, tight management and overhead costs, and operating margin improvement of 60-70 basis points to achieve sustainable annual EPS growth of 9%-10% (excluding acquisitions).

The bottom line
Procter & Gamble and Unilever continue to grow through innovation, and Church & Dwight's focus on total shareholder returns has rewarded shareholders handsomely over the years. All three of these trends should continue, and there is no clear winner. One thing's for sure, though -- none of these companies are losers. 

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Dan Moskowitz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, General Electric Company, and Google. 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.