Investors' appetite for dividend growth is much like a game of chicken. We all want companies to grow their payouts as much as possible, but not so much that they compromise future financial stability. A company with a less-than-great dividend yield, after all, can make up for it with a higher dividend growth rate.

If you're looking to add some income-generating stocks that could significantly grow their payments over the next few years, perhaps it's time to take a look at Cintas, MPLX, and Boeing.

The candidates

Company Dividend Yield 5-Year Dividend CAGR
Cintas (NASDAQ:CTAS) 0.98% 20.4%
MPLX (NYSE:MPLX) 6.01% 26.7%
Boeing (NYSE:BA)  2.02% 31.2%

Data source: Ycharts. CAGR = Compound annual growth rate.

Adding size at the perfect time

Cintas' business is pretty much a bellwether for economic health. The company's uniform rental and facility services tend to wax and wane with the broader economy and unemployment rate. With unemployment currently just north of 4% and some robust gross domestic product figures lately, Cintas may do quite well in the coming years. 

More encouraging from an investor's perspective are the company's cost reduction efforts. After Cintas acquired rival G&K Services last year, management has been in integration mode trying to squeeze out as much operational synergy as possible. It noted on its most recent earnings call that it has made some progress on that front, but there is still a lot of work left to be done. 

With the U.S. economy firing on all cylinders and Cintas' business still wringing out cost efficiencies, there is a clear path to increased earnings and cash flow to pay a higher dividend. As it stands, with just a 25% payout ratio, its free cash flow more than covers its dividend obligations. If the company maintains the rate of payout increases we have seen in recent years, it won't take long for its dividend to double. 

Person sitting behind progressively larger stacks of coins that have plants growing on top, from small to large.

Image source: Getty Images.

Restructured and ready to rise

MPLX has been one of the most impressive growth stories in the master limited partner space for the past half-decade. Not only has it grown its payout by 26% annually, but it's been able to maintain incredible financial discipline and debt metrics that put it among some of the best in the business. The one thing that was standing in its way was its corporate structure, but thanks to an agreement with parent Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC), that won't be as much of a problem anymore.

Initially, Marathon owned MPLX with what is called a general partner stake. This is typically a small stake in the business, but with it come incentive distribution rights, or IDRs, which, for lack of a better term, are management fees. Early on, these IDRs gave Marathon a lot of incentive to grow MPLX's payout because it would entitle the parent to a greater percentage of MPLX's distributable cash flow. As companies with this corporate structure get larger, though, cost of capital increases and it's harder to maintain high growth rates. So Marathon and MPLX agreed to exchange Marathon's general partner stake for public limited partner shares. This lowers the cost of capital and aligns Marathon with the rest of MPLX's shareholders.

With Marathon set to drop down several billion in assets to MPLX in 2018 and a slew of new organic growth projects slated to come on line, MPLX is targeting 10% distribution growth for 2018 and beyond. At that rate, it won't take too long for the payout to double, and investors even get a 6% yield for their trouble while they wait. 

BA Total Return Price Chart

BA total return price data by YCharts.

Big profitability from big birds

It costs billions and billions to design and build out the capacity to manufacture a new commercial airliner. That means it can take years for a plane to become a profitable endeavor for a manufacturer. When Boeing started selling its signature 787 Dreamliner back in 2011, the company was posting huge losses on every plane built because of those up-front costs. Seven years into the manufacturing process, though, the company is starting to generate sizable profits from the sale of Dreamliners, especially the larger 787-9 and 787-10 variants that carry higher price tags. As the company continues to ramp up production of this aircraft, it will likely lead to even greater free cash flow.

What's more encouraging is that Boeing appears to have enough wiggle room to raise its payout today without too much strain on the balance sheet. Its payout ratio has dropped from a high of 70% back in 2016 to a more reasonable 49% today. Also, with the company dedicating about $2 billion per quarter to share repurchases, there is a lot of discretionary cash that could be shifted around if increasing its payout became a priority. 

Management has already accelerated its dividend payments recently with a 30% increase in 2016 and a 20% jump in 2017. If this trend continues, investors in Boeing will be sitting on a dividend double soon.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.