Should Investors Catch a Ride on WhiteWave Foods?

Consumers are demanding organic and healthy food. And consumers and investors could benefit by considering companies like WhiteWave Foods.

Jul 22, 2014 at 2:00PM

The growing trend of organic food production is also being propelled by key players in this sector like WhiteWave Foods, (NYSE: WWAV) United Natural Foods (NASDAQ:UNFI) and Inventure Foods (NASDAQ:SNAK). So consumers and investors with an eye on healthier foods should consider these organic food producers.

 Is the surf still up at WhiteWave?
WhiteWave Foods (NYSE: WWAV) is an organic food producer known for brands like Pure Almond Almondmilk and International Delight CoffeeHouse Inspirations. As consumers seek healthier milk products, the market for almond milk, soy milk, and other plant-based milk products is growing. On top of this, WhiteWave is also diversifying with more organic brands while expanding internationally.

WhiteWave's share price spiked shortly after it announced first-quarter results in May, and is up more than 35% year-to-date. While its share price currently hovers at $31, close to its 52-week high, the analyst consensus still rates WhiteWave a buy.

Furthermore, the company booked EPS growth of more than 23% last year and this could continue this year if it maintains its momentum. Moreover, WhiteWave Foods' first-quarter adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.22 -- a 40% year over year climb built on sales increasing for all of its brands by 36% to $830 million.

A key contribution to its sales growth -- $146 million -- came from its Earthbound Farms unit. The company bought this organic greens and produce brand in January 2014 and it will continue to fuel sales growth as WhiteWave diversifies.

"The strength of our results reflects impressive organic growth across our historical businesses, plus the strategic addition of Earthbound Farm to our portfolio," said Gregg Engles, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

In January, the company also announced a joint venture with China's Mengniu Dairy Company to manufacture and distribute almond and soy-based milk products in China. The new venture is expected to start production later this year according to Mr. Engles.

Looking ahead, WhiteWave anticipates net sales growth in the "low thirties percent range for both the full year and the second quarter of 2014," according to company management. With the addition of Earthbound Farms and the strategic alliance with Mengiu Dairy, the company will be able to diversify into more brands and will also be positioned to grow internationally.

Why this matters to United Natural Foods
United offers a variety of natural and organic food and beverages which differs from that of WhiteWave, ranging from sports drinks to nuts. Furthermore, the company recently announced that it has agreed to acquire all the stock of Tony's Fine Foods, a specialty distributor of fresh organic foods.

United expects the transaction to close late in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014. United's management believes the acquisition will strengthen its position and grow its market share in the US and Canada. 

Moreover, in its latest earnings report for the third quarter United reported increased sales, revenue, and earnings growth and this has been the case for the past two years. The company's earnings per share were up by 21.7% compared to the year-ago period. For the rest of fiscal 2014, the company anticipates diluted EPS of $0.247-$2.50 per share which is an increase of more than 13% from fiscal 2013.

Inventure Foods is focused on frozen foods and snacks
Inventure produces and markets a number of brand name products like Boulder Canyon Natural Foods, Seattle's Best Coffee, and Vidalia Brands.

The company has two main lines, frozen foods and snacks. Frozen fruits, vegetables, and beverages comprise its frozen foods. Its snack unit includes potato chips, kettle chips, and sheeted dough products that it sells to snack food distributors and retailers.

Inventure last reported that its net revenue for fiscal 2013 was the highest in the company's history and management called for earnings-per-share growth of 43.4% in 2014.

Most recently, Inventure launched Rader Farms Fruit PLUS Vitamins -- fortified whole frozen fruit products. The company believes this product is unique to the frozen aisle since it "builds on naturally occurring vitamins found within whole strawberries, blueberries and blackberries and boosts the nutrition level."

"It's a product that may revolutionize homemade smoothies and fresh fruit snacking, and we're excited to introduce it to consumers this summer," said Dan Hammer, senior vice president and general manager of the frozen division at Inventure.

The bottom line
Consumers will continue to demand healthier foods, beverages, and snacks. And WhiteWave, United Foods, and Inventure are poised to grow as this trend toward healthier eating continues. While Inventure is the least expensive of the three, investors should mark their calendars for July 28 when the company has scheduled its earnings announcement.

As we have seen with Whole Foods Market, however, the success of these organic food producers will ultimately mean more competition. So in order to keep growing earnings, gain market share, and ensure share price growth, each of these companies is diversifying its brands.

In my view, WhiteWave is in the best position with the acquisition of Earth Bound and is poised to grow in the global village because of its strategic alliance with China's Megniu Dairy. And investors who have a long-term view should hang ten, in surfing lingo, with WhiteWave.

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