Buffett Brand Bankers Are Conquering the World

LONDON -- Legendary U.S. investor Warren Buffett has been telling us for donkey's years about the virtues of companies with strong consumer brands. And investing in such companies has helped make the octogenarian one of the world's richest men with a fortune of more than $50 billion.

A new "Brand Footprint" ranking by market researchers Kantar Worldpanel has identified the world's "most chosen" consumer brands using a combination of household penetration and frequency of purchase across 32 countries.

The research not only tells us the companies behind the most successful global brands, but it also suggests these brands still have plenty of growth to come. Just one of the top 50 (the Colgate oral health brand from Colgate-Palmolive) has penetrated more than half of households, and only three others reach more than a third.

Let me tell you about three companies that can be described as brand champions.

Coca-Cola
Buffett has held shares in Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) for a quarter of a century. The company is one of his "big four" investments.

The drinks giant is the archetypal Buffett brand banker. He once famously commented: "If you gave me $100 billion and said, 'Take away the soft-drink leadership of Coca-Cola in the world,' I'd give it back to you and say it can't be done."

Kantar ranks Coca-Cola as the global No. 1, with a household penetration of 44% and an average of 15 purchases a year by each household. But Coke isn't the company's only big-winning brand: Sprite, Fanta, and Minute Maid also make the top 50.

Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) has been another Buffett favorite, though he has taken some profits along the way.

The world's biggest consumer products company owns brands across a breadth of segments including beauty and personal care, household cleaning, health care, and baby care.

P&G has eight brands in Kantar's top 50. The Pantene brand of hair products is the highest ranked (at No. 7) followed by Tide laundry detergents and fabric softener Downy.

Unilever
London-listed Unilever  (LSE: ULVR  ) (NYSE: UL  ) is often spoken of as a "Buffett-type" business by U.K. investors. The FTSE 100 group is behind P&G in size but does operate across a range of segments.

Unilever shareholders may be pleasantly surprised to learn that a remarkable 15 of the company's brands make it into Kantar's global top 50 -- almost double the number achieved by P&G.

Unilever has three brands in the top 10: Lifebuoy soap; the Knorr range of soups, stock cubes, and sauces; and the Dove brand of personal-care goods. If you think the strength of Unilever's brands gives the group a great engine for future growth, you're in good company.

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