What do invisible aligners for straightening teeth have in common with premium beer and marijuana? Not very much. They are all high-growth areas, though. And two companies are leaders in those areas -- Align Technology (ALGN -0.27%) and Constellation Brands (STZ 0.40%).
Align has brought more smiles to investors' faces so far this year than Constellation has. The orthodontic device maker's shares are up 47% compared to Constellation's year-to-date gain of 12%. But which of these stocks is the better pick going forward?
The case for Align Technology
Align Technology isn't delivering the scorching-hot sales growth that it has in the past. But most investors won't complain about sales growing by "only" 25.6%, the year-over-year revenue increase reported by Align in the first quarter of 2019.
That growth is coming primarily from continued high levels of demand for Align's Invisalign clear aligners in North America and Europe. However, the company's intraoral scanner business is also performing really well.
Can Align keep the momentum going? Its chances look pretty good. The company estimates that it currently claims a market share of 14% in the overall orthodontic market. Its market share among teens is only 6%. This gives Align a sizable opportunity if it can entice patients and dental professionals to switch from conventional wire-and-metal orthodontic braces.
Align also thinks that it could expand the addressable market through innovation. Currently, there are around 8 million orthodontic cases per year for which Invisalign could be used. However, the total orthodontic market is around 12 million cases per year. Align thinks that introducing new versions of Invisalign could allow it to treat more of the 4 million or so annual orthodontic cases that its clear aligner can't address right now.
There's also a lot of potential in international markets. Align has made significant progress in expanding into more countries. But international shipments of Invisalign still only make up around 40% of total shipments. As the middle classes grow in developing countries, Align should have a great opportunity to boost sales.
The case for Constellation Brands
Investors should look at Constellation Brands from two angles: the company's core alcoholic beverages business and its expansion into cannabis via its 38% stake in Canopy Growth (CGC 1.60%). Both angles provide significant growth opportunities for the company.
Constellation remains the clear leader in the U.S. premium beer market. Sales for its Corona, Modelo, and Pacifico brands are growing faster than any other premium beers. The company thinks that it can generate a lot more growth in the future in large part by gaining more shelf space with retailers and expanding its distribution opportunities.
Wine and spirits haven't been as big of a success story for Constellation lately. However, the company sold more than 30 of its wine brands to E. & J. Gallo a couple of months ago. That's a good move in that it pulled in $1.7 billion and enables Constellation to focus on the higher-priced (and more profitable) wines still in its lineup.
Don't forget pot. Constellation first invested in top Canadian marijuana producer Canopy Growth in 2017. It upped its ownership in Canopy last year with another investment of $4 billion. The bet has already paid off pretty well: Canopy Growth stock has risen more than 30% since Constellation added to its stake.
Canopy already claims a No. 1 market share in the Canadian adult-use recreational marijuana market. It's also one of the top contenders in international medical cannabis markets. In addition, Canopy is positioning itself in the U.S. hemp cannabidiol (CBD) market by building a hemp production facility in New York state.
It's still really early for the global cannabis industry. Constellation projects that the total market could top $200 billion within the next 15 years. The company thinks that Canopy could capture between 5% and 10% of that market.
My view is that both of these stocks should be able to deliver solid growth over the long term. But if I had to choose only one of these two stocks, I'd go with Align Technology.
I think that Align will increase its sales and earnings more quickly over the next several years than Constellation Brands will. The risks for Align also seem lower than those for Constellation, in my opinion. For example, the company's global cannabis market projections assume that more countries will legalize recreational pot, including the U.S. Those assumptions might not pan out as quickly as expected and perhaps even not at all.
My take is that Constellation Brands is still a good pick for aggressive investors. I just think that Align is even better.