Is Mondelez' Commitment to Well-Being Reason to Invest?


Mondelez International (NASDAQ: MDLZ  ) , the former parent company of Kraft Foods, recently announced a new global initiative. The company designed its so-called Call for Well-Being strategy to broaden the reach of its global nutrition efforts and commitment to sustainable agriculture.

"We want to work with others to expand the conversation around well-being and bring an entrepreneurial approach to address the growing concerns around public health and the environment," said Christine McGrath, a company officer charged with spearheading the global well-being strategy.

Mondelez' global commitment at a glance
Mondelez produces and markets an array of packaged food products that include snacks, beverages, and convenient meals across the global village. Some of those tasty treats include Nabisco and Oreo cookies, Tang beverages, and Trident gums. The company has been under pressure from environmental and consumer groups to join the fight against genetically modified organisms. The new global initiative may have been prompted by this pressure.

Mondelez' Call for Well-Being centers on four key actions which include empowering consumers to "snack mindfully," promoting healthy lifestyles, securing sustainable agricultural supplies, and keeping its consumers and products safe.

Mondelez lackluster fourth-quarter performance
Whether or not mindful snacking means doing so while sitting in the semi-lotus position or while practicing chair yoga is unclear; the larger question is whether this initiative can help the snack maker recover from its recent lackluster performance.

Mondelez faced stiff headwinds in 2013 as the lingering tough economy caused consumers to cut down on snacks and tighten their belts. As a reflection of this, sales dropped 0.1% during the year. Although earnings climbed to $0.42 per share from $0.38 per share in the prior year, that fell short of previous expectations of $0.44 per share.

Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO, said in part:

We delivered solid revenue growth and strong market share performance in the face of a significant slowdown in our categories as 2013 progressed. Nevertheless, we're disappointed that our results were below what we and our shareholders originally expected. 

Mondelez' disappointment may not last long as the company also offered positive guidance for the coming fiscal year. The company expects its organic revenue to grow by 4%. Furthermore, the company expects earnings in the range of $1.73-$1.78 per share.

That being said, the question remains as to whether Mondelez' Call for Well-Being strategy will attract new customers to its products. With a share price hovering at $34.25, slightly off the high of $36.05, investors may get more Tang for their bucks through better growth opportunities in smaller snack-makers like Inventure Foods (NASDAQ: SNAK  ) .

Inventure Foods sees green shoots of growth in 2014
Inventure Foods produces and markets a number of brand-name products that include Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, Nathan's Famous, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Vidalia Brands. The company has two main lines: frozen foods and snacks. Its frozen products comprise frozen fruits, vegetables, and beverages that it sells to grocery stores, club stores and merchandisers. The snack unit includes potato chips, kettle chips, and sheeted-dough products that it sells to snack food distributors and retailers.

The company released its fourth-quarter and year-end results in February. Highlights included revenue rising 35.2% to $58.9 million for the quarter along with impressive earnings growth of 46.4% to $5.8 million. For the 2013 fiscal year, net revenue went up by 16.4% to $215.6 million while earnings increased 12.2% to $18.0 million.

Moreover, net revenue for fiscal 2013 was "the highest in the company's history" according to Inventure CEO Terry McDaniel. Also, the guidance for the coming year looks healthy indeed. The company anticipates earnings-per-share growth of 43.4%.

Furthermore, the company has also achieved an impressive long-term growth rate of 18%. Mr. McDaniel also noted that Inventure's acquisitions in 2013 will position the company to strengthen its core brands as well as expand its healthy and natural product portfolio.

Last foolish bite
Investors looking for comfort food might be inclined to put their money on Mondelez since it is the largest snack food producer and it has fingers in many pies. However, the question remains whether the company's Call for Well-Being is only pie in the sky.

Meanwhile, Inventure Foods is an impressive growth story in a segment that will keep growing as consumers continue to seek healthy snack alternatives. The current share price of just over $14 per share may look more appetizing as well. In sum, investors in snack producers might find healthier returns on investment with a natural like Inventure.

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