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One of last year's most surprising winners was New Age Beverages (NASDAQ:NBEV). Shares of the functional beverages distributor soared 140% in 2018, and the rally continues into 2019. The stock has moved higher every single trading day so far in January, rising 22% year to date through Thursday afternoon. 

The shares were sleepy through most of 2018 until becoming a speculative darling in mid-September last year, turning heads on news that New Age would be unveiling a new line of beverages infused with cannabidiol (CBD) at a convenience store expo a couple of weeks later. The market's appetite for publicly traded cannabis-related plays has run more hot than cold in recent months, but there are some strong indications that New Age Beverages stock will have another strong year in 2019 -- and not just because the stock keeps coasting higher this month. Let's lay out the bullish thesis for New Age Beverages to continue rallying in the year ahead.

Five cans of Mellow Mood beverages.

Image source: New Age Beverages.

1. The Farm Bill clears the path for growth

New Age Beverages would go on to be the belle of the convention-floor ball. It claimed to be the second-most-visited and -searched booth at the North American Convenience Store show in October, no small feat in an expo with 1,259 exhibitors. As promised, it went on to introduce its new line of CBD-infused functional beverages. 

Attendee interest wouldn't have mattered if Congress hadn't passed the Farm Bill two months later, as provisions in that agricultural update paved the way for legalized hemp farming. New Age Beverages will now be able to not only introduce its new CBD drinks in 2019 but also roll out variants of its existing beverages with CBD enhancements. 

2. One small purchase means big things 

A couple of weeks before the Farm Bill was signed in Congress, New Age Beverages announced an $85 million deal to acquire Morinda, a much larger beverage company with $240 million in annual sales. 

New Age Beverages and its now $450 million market cap was generating sales of just $49.4 million on its own over the past four quarters. In a single transaction, it's boosting its revenue nearly sixfold for a deal that is valued at less than a fifth of its market cap. 

Morinda isn't perfect. It wouldn't have sold itself for a third of its annual sales if it was rocking on its own. However, it does offer New Age Beverages a foot in the door internationally, as it has a presence in 60 countries, with a particularly strong position in Asia. New Age Beverages was seeing sales stall in 2018, but that will change in 2019 between the CBD beverages and Morinda expanding its global reach. 

3. Analysts are still warming up to the story

New Age Beverages is still off the radar of most investors and major analysts. One of the more recognized Wall Street pros covering New Age Beverages is Northland's Mike Grondahl. He's bullish on the investment, and earlier this week, he boosted his price target on the shares from $6 to $8.

It will take time for the larger firms to initiate coverage of New Age Beverages. A rapidly appreciating stock isn't enough to turn heads among the Wall Street elite. However, New Age Beverages can do its part to speed up the process by making sure that it's able to successfully introduce its CBD beverages later this year. Its ability to optimize the new distribution outlets available through Morinda for its organic product lines will also help beef up coverage. It's the next step to keep the rally going, replacing the speculators of today with the long-term investors of tomorrow.

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.