Can Campbell Soup Win the Battle Against Its Organic Competitors?

Campbell Soup’s traditional products are not in line with current eating trends, but how are the company's organic competitors performing comparatively?

May 22, 2014 at 2:52PM

Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) reported less-than-stellar results in its recent quarter and its stock dropped by over 3% as a result. Consumers have been choosing healthier and organic foods, and Campbell's traditional food offerings, such as its soups, contain large amounts of sodium. Furthermore, canned products are seen as less healthy than non-canned ones. As a result, consumers are turning to organic-food companies such as The Hain Celestial Group (NASDAQ:HAIN) and shopping more at organic grocers such as Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM).

Campbell's recent results
Campbell's adjusted earnings, which consider its ongoing operations and what Wall Street follows, came in at $0.62 per share to beat Wall Street's consensus estimate of $0.59 per share. The company's revenue came in short of Wall Street's estimates, however, at $1.97 billion versus the consensus estimate of $2 billion. The $1.97 billion in revenue was a slight increase from 2013's third-quarter revenue of $1.96 billion. Plus, the adjusted earnings per share of $0.62 were an increase of 7% compared to the year-ago quarter.



Campbell's earnings on a GAAP basis also increased to $184 million from $169 million in 2013's third quarter. The corresponding earnings per share figure also realized an increase with $0.58 in 2014's third quarter versus $0.53 in last year's quarter. Campbell generated an increase in earnings despite falling sales in its global baking and snacks division. Sales in that division fell 1% and the earnings from that division decreased even further, by 7%. Campbell's sales in its international simple meals and beverages division fell even more with a decline of 17%; the resulting earnings did not fall as harshly though with a decrease of 4%. Overall, Campbell's organic sales increased by a slight margin of 1%.

Campbell's competitors
Unlike Campbell, Hain Celestial had a blow-out 2014 third quarter in which its revenue increased 22% to $557.4 million. The company's earnings per share on a GAAP basis decreased to $0.75 from $0.88 in the year-ago quarter, but the prior year's quarter benefited from a tax benefit of $0.28; so, on a continuing operations basis, Hain Celestial increased its earnings. Furthermore, its adjusted earnings per share increased 22%, like its revenue, to $0.88. Both its revenue and adjusted earnings beat Wall Street's estimates.

Whole Foods did not have as good of a quarter as Hain Celestial as its revenue and earnings for its 2014 second quarter missed Wall Street estimates. The organic grocer's sales rose by 10% in the quarter to $3.3 billion, but that figure missed the Wall Street estimate of $3.34 billion. Its earnings also rose to $142 million, which equated to $0.38 per share, but that also missed the Wall Street estimate of $0.41 per share.

Some more expensive than others
Hain Celestial had a truly remarkable quarter, but its stock price shows it as it currently trades at a P/E multiple of 35. This compares with the S&P 500's P/E of 18, which makes Hain Celestial almost twice as expensive as the market on an earnings basis of the last year. Whole Foods trades at a premium to the market as well with a P/E of 25, but is less expensive than Hain Celestial on a P/E basis.

Campbell Soup also commands a premium to the market with a P/E of 27, but is valued below Hain Celestial on that basis. Furthermore, Campbell pays a dividend which is currently yielding 2.8%. Whole Foods also pays a dividend with a smaller yield than Campbell at 1.3%. Therefore, Campbell and Whole Foods could be attractive to income investors.

Foolish takeaway
Campbell, Hain Celestial, and Whole Foods are all profitable companies that many other companies should envy. Hain Celestial seems to be a step ahead of both Campbell and Whole Foods, however, firing on all cylinders in light of its recent results. Whole Foods is experiencing increasing competition from the likes of Wal-Mart and Kroger, and Campbell's sales are slowing as consumers shift to healthier alternatives.

Nonetheless, Campbell maintains a brand name that resonates with consumers. The famed soup maker should utilize its market notoriety to foray wholeheartedly into the organic space. Campbell could use its namesake and benefit tremendously from the current and future eating trends of consumers.

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John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Andrew Sebastian has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends HAIN and WFM. The Motley Fool owns shares of HAIN and WFM. 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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