Many consumer goods companies are considered slow-growth companies which are owned for income instead of price appreciation. However, investors shouldn't simply settle with the single-digit growth of stalwarts like Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) or General Mills.
I recently screened for consumer goods stocks with double-digit sales and earnings growth for this year and next year, and three surprising stocks rose to the top of that list -- Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST), Blue Buffalo Pet Products (NASDAQ:BUFF), and B&G Foods (NYSE:BGS).
Monster Beverage is an energy drink maker which sells its beverages under the Monster, NOS, Full Throttle, Burn, Mother, BU, Gladiator, Samurai, Nalu, PBM, Power Play, and Relentless brands. Several of those brands were previously owned by Coca-Cola, which swapped its energy drinks for Monster's juices, teas, and other non-energy drinks in 2015. Coca-Cola also acquired a 16.7% stake in Monster as part of that deal.
Soda sales in the U.S. have fallen for three consecutive decades, but the niche market for energy drinks has withstood that decline. Grand View Research estimates that the energy drink market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10% between 2016 and 2024, driven by demand from busy urban consumers and supported by big marketing campaigns at sporting events.
That's why Monster's revenue is expected to rise 12% this year and another 11% in fiscal 2017. Its earnings are expected to grow 24% this year and another 19% next year. Those growth figures compare very favorably to Coca-Cola's single-digit growth, but Monster stock isn't cheap at 39 times earnings -- which is much higher than the industry average of 24 for soft drink makers.
Blue Buffalo Pet Products
The pet food industry is remarkably resistant to economic downturns since consumers certainly won't let their pets starve. One such high-growth player in that market is Blue Buffalo, which produces natural pet food products for specific diets -- including high-protein, grain-free, and food sensitivity requirements.
Blue Buffalo went public in 2015, and has posted double-digit annual sales growth every quarter. Analysts expect its revenue to rise 12% this year and 10% next year. The company believes that it can maintain a top line growth rate of 10% over the next few years. Its earnings are expected to rise 27% this year and 14% next year.
Blue Buffalo still has a lot of room to grow, since it only controls about 6% of the U.S. pet food market. That market is dominated by legacy brands like Mars' Petcare and Nestle's Purina, but Blue Buffalo's growth indicates that there's still room for smaller premium players for pet owners who are concerned about the health of their pets. However, investors should note that Blue Buffalo trades at 47 times earnings -- which is higher than its earnings growth rate and the industry average P/E of 41.
B&G Foods sells a wide variety of packaged food brands, many of which it acquired from big acquisitions. It acquired Green Giant from General Mills in 2015, and bought up Victoria Fine Foods (which makes specialty sauces, condiments, and gourmet spreads) and ACH Food Companies' spice business last year.
But to fund that inorganic growth strategy and repay its debt, B&G announced two secondary share offerings last year, which put 8.35 million more shares on the market. That boosted its total outstanding shares by 14% over the past 12 months.
Analysts expect B&G's top line to grow 45% this year, due to its newly acquired brands, and rise another 17% next year. Additional acquisitions this year could cause those estimates to be readjusted upwards. Its earnings are expected to jump 42% this year and 12% next year.
Unlike Monster and Blue Buffalo, B&G Foods also pays a forward dividend yield of nearly 4%, which is supported by a payout ratio of 94%. B&G Foods' P/E ratio of 27 is also lower than its industry average of 33, and looks reasonable relative to its earnings growth rate. The only thing B&G Foods investors should be mindful of is "diworsification" -- which could happen if the company acquires too many weak brands that offset the growth of its stronger ones.
The key takeaway
Monster Beverage, Blue Buffalo, and B&G all defy slow growth perceptions about the consumer goods sector. However, investors should be cautious with Monster and Blue Buffalo, since their valuations indicate that their upside potential could be limited. B&G offers a good balance of growth, stability, and income, but investors should also be wary of its elevated debt levels and the risks of diworsification.