Successful investors are adept at finding companies that not only have interesting histories, but also have the potential to grow in the future, too. Shopify Inc. (NYSE:SHOP), The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), and Hormel Foods Company (NYSE:HRL) are all great examples of growth stocks that have a history and a future that successful investors will find very compelling. Here's what you need to know about each of these stocks.

Riding the wave of e-commerce

Chris Neiger (Shopify): Many people assume that the shift from brick-and-mortar sales to e-commerce has already been made, but investors should consider that the global retail e-commerce market is expected to grow to $4.5 trillion by 2021, up from $2.8 trillion this year. Shopify is tapping into this growing market through its e-commerce platform, which allows businesses to sell their products and services on the web, even through other online marketplaces like Amazon.

Shopify has increased the number of businesses that it services from just 243,000 in 2016 to more than 600,000 now. That growth has come primarily from small businesses signing up to use Shopify, but larger businesses are now seeing the benefit of the company's services as well. Shopify currently earns 22% of its recurring revenue from its larger Shopify Plus customers, an increase of 5 percentage points from a year ago.

A man drawing a rising line over a rising bar chart

Image source: Getty Images.

The company's revenue spiked 68% in the first quarter of this year and investor sentiment has been climbing along with the Shopify's sales. Over the past year, Shopify's stock has skyrocketed nearly 73%. Despite all of this growth, there's still likely much more runway for the company. Shopify's management expects the company's full-year revenue to be between $1 billion and $1.01 billion, which would represent a 48% year-over-year increase from 2017.

Investors should know that Shopify isn't profitable on a GAAP basis at the moment; its GAAP operating loss in the first quarter was $15.9 million. But the company expects its full-year adjusted operating profit to be $2.5 million at the midpoint, excluding stock-based compensation and payroll taxes.

For investors looking to tap into the rapidly growing e-commerce market, there's hardly a better bet than Shopify. This tech company's online platform is providing companies large and small with the tools to grow their businesses, and I think we're only at the beginning of its growth story.

Media's true juggernaut

Travis Hoium (Walt Disney): There may not be a media company better positioned for the future than Disney right now. It owns some of the most valuable franchises in the world in Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, as well as TV networks and theme parks. On top of that, there's ESPN, which is a still a powerhouse in sports. 

While investors have been fretting about the loss of cable subscribers for ESPN and Disney's other networks, I think the company will be able to grow revenue as it launches streaming services later this year. For comparison, Netflix has 131.2 million subscribers worldwide and a single subscription offering. Disney is launching three services that could attract tens -- if not hundreds -- of millions of subscribers in the long term. Given its assets, I think Disney could eventually have more streaming subscribers than Netflix and charge each of them more on average than Netflix's current $10.99 for a standard streaming subscriber. 

What makes Disney powerful from an investor's standpoint is how studios, distribution (network, cable, and streaming), and theme parks work together. It's like a waterfall that allows Disney to extract revenue from multiple sources for many years from the same content. And the fact that Disney has arguably the best content in the world makes the entire business model work. 

A smorgasbord of opportunity

Reuben Gregg Brewer (Hormel Foods Corporation): Hormel shares are up more than 20% since hitting a low in late October 2017. And yet the Dividend Champion, with 52 years of annual dividend hikes behind it, still offers a yield of over 2%. That's an important figure, because it's at the high end of Hormel's historical yield range.

That might seem odd, given that the stock is up so much over the past few months, but there are two reasons for this. First, Hormel just increased its dividend by a hefty 10% at the start of the year. Second, despite the stock price advance, Hormel is still 17% below the highs it reached in early 2016. Why? Customer buying habits are shifting and investors are worried that food makers like Hormel aren't keeping up.

HRL Chart

HRL data by YCharts.

But that's not the case at Hormel. The company has been shifting gears right along with its customers, selling older brands (like Diamond Crystal Salt) and buying ones that resonate more (like Wholly Guacamole). More recently Hormel bought Columbus Meats, a maker of deli products, to augment its position in this section of the grocery store. Deli is growing four times faster than the overall store right now and 25% faster than the runner-up (produce). And that's just one example of the company's efforts.     

That's not to suggest that Hormel isn't facing some headwinds today. Revenue and earnings fell slightly in fiscal 2017, but you don't get to over five decades of annual dividend hikes without some rough patches. And Hormel is making the right moves to get through this one, so it can resume its long trend of revenue and earnings growth. Successful investors should jump in while the market has Hormel on the sale rack.

Plenty of growth ahead for this trio

Shopify is the backbone for an increasing number of internet sellers. Disney is shifting its business model to add streaming to its already strong mix of profitable operations. And Hormel looks cheap as it works to adjust to a shifting business landscape and resume the long history of growth that underpins five decades of annual dividend hikes. The stories are different, but the themes are similar -- with each of these successful companies focused squarely on growth.