Shares pulled ahead of the market in February, but that slight outperformance didn't hold as the year progressed.
Kraft Heinz's share-price drift makes sense given how unclear its growth prospects are. Its offer to acquire Unilever was rebuffed, and, with stocks up sharply since then, the prospects for attractively priced merger deals have thinned.
The consumer products giant isn't producing solid revenue gains from its core business, either. Organic sales in the most recent quarter were up 0.3% to mark just a tiny improvement over the prior quarter's 0.9% decrease.
CEO Bernardo Hees and his team aren't expecting a quick rebound in the fiscal fourth quarter. In fact, the market for packaged foods is "both dynamic and challenging," executives told investors in early November. The good news is management is executing well on its efficiency initiatives despite these problems. Cost cuts have pushed profit margin up to 15% of sales from 12.7% a year ago. That success sets the stage for healthy earnings growth down the line -- assuming Kraft Heinz can find a path toward its next phase of revenue gains.