Who knew that focusing on flavored sparkling water could be such a savvy business move? Sure, the turn away from sugary, caffeinated sodas seems like an obvious trend now. But twenty years ago, people probably would have looked at you sideways for suggesting such a change.
One of the biggest beneficiaries has been National Beverage (NASDAQ:FIZZ), the parent company behind LaCroix, the nation's leading sparkling water drink. Shares have returned over 2,000% in the past two decades, making it a massively successful investment.
But that was then, and this is now; the stock market is a forward-looking entity. With that in mind, we asked three of our analysts to identify a stock with National Beverage-like potential. Below, they talk about why Trade Desk (NASDAQ: TTD), Zoe's Kitchen (NYSE:ZOES), and Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM) are all worthy of your consideration.
Taking an approach distinctly different from others
Brian Stoffel (Trade Desk): The transition to digital and mobile advertising is undeniable. While it's already well underway, this shift will create an opportunity worth hundreds of billions of dollars for companies in the right space. I believe Trade Desk is one such company.
Like National Beverage, Trade Desk is taking an approach distinctly different from that of the competition. The company doesn't buy ad inventory, and instead of trying to help those who have ad space to sell, Trade Desk focuses on meeting the needs of agencies looking to buy ad space for campaigns. This might sound like a small difference, but it is a fairly large differentiator in the nascent field of programmatic ad buying.
While Trade Desk is hardly a "sure thing" to produce National Beverage-like results -- it relies on a few ad agencies for a lot of its business and is valued at over 45 times expected 2017 earnings -- it provides an opportunity for investors to get in on the ground level of a company taking an approach different from the rest of the field.
Plenty of white space left to fill
Brian Feroldi (Zoe's Kitchen): Regional restaurant stocks that hold national appeal are a great place to look for home run investments. The main reason is that these companies have usually developed a winning concept that works well in one part of the country. If the company's nationwide expansion plans are a success, the company's stock could grow exponentially over time.
One restaurant stock that I think could make it big is Zoe's Kitchen. This fast-casual brand focused on Mederteranian-style food attracts health-conscious diners who want a tasty bite in a hurry. Offering this unique style of food allowed Zoe's comparable store sales to grow at a brisk pace for years on end. With just over 200 stores currently operating in only 20 U.S. states, Zoe's long-term growth plan to build over 1,600 U.S. locations certainly sounds exciting.
Unfortunately, Zoe's stores haven't proven themselves to be immune to the recent restaurant slowdown. Zoe's comps have been slowing down for more than a year, and they recently declined by 3.3%. That snapped a seven-year long streak of gains. Predictably, Wall Street hasn't been happy with this turn of events, and has pounded the company's stock.
While Zoe's stock has been no fun to own over the last few quarters, the company does have a plan to revive its growth story. Management is planning on tinkering with the menu to drive comp growth, and it is also expanding the number of stores that will offer home delivery. When combined with the company's rapid store expansion strategy and Wall Street's lowered expectations, it is possible that Zoe's future could finally be looking up. That makes Zoe's a stock that could certainly offer investors appetizing returns from here.
Potential for a refreshing turnaround
Steve Symington (Boston Beer Company): Boston Beer Company has left a bitter taste in investors' mouths of late. Shares of the craft brewing specialist are down more than 20% so far in 2017, as it feels the heat of competition from both regional brewers and industry titans muscling into its niche.
To be sure, Boston Beer's revenue last quarter declined 14.6% year over year to $161.7 million, driven by a 15% decline in shipments to 707,000 barrels. For that, Boston Beer founder and chairman Jim Koch primarily blamed weakness in the company's core Samuel Adams brand, as well as a "general softening of the craft beer category that continues to be very competitive."
But the news wasn't all bad. Boston Beer's Twisted Tea and Truly Spiked and Sparkling varieties are performing well, and its Angry Orchard brand has maintained market share even amid a lull in the cider category. In the meantime, Boston Beer is focusing on returning Samuel Adams to growth through a combination of packaging innovation, marketing investments, and -- as a recent op-ed written by Koch for The New York Times shows -- proudly remaining a champion of both itself and smaller brewers (despite the competition they bring).
Meanwhile, Boston Beer is also focusing on improving cost efficiency, which should allow it to emerge a stronger, more profitable business as it enters the lucrative summer season. If Boston Beer can return to growth and begin to once again increase its less-than-2% share of total U.S. beer sales, I think the stock could easily offer National Beverage-like returns for patient, long-term investors.
Brian Feroldi owns shares of Boston Beer. Brian Stoffel has no position in any stocks mentioned. Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Boston Beer and Zoe's Kitchen. The Motley Fool recommends The Trade Desk. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.