It's only to be expected that the companies that receive the most attention are the ones whose brands define the world we live in. Apple, Alphabet's Google, Amazon, Tesla, Disney, and Facebook are rarely out of the newspapers or out of our minds. They are the innovators, agitators, and magic-makers, and for that reason, they possess an aura that investors are drawn to like moths to a flame.
But there is another class of stock that tends to get overlooked. Plain, unassuming, and so ubiquitous as to go unnoticed, these companies are part of the fabric of our lives, and their services are every bit as important as the latest iPhone or Hollywood blockbuster.
1. The Kellogg Company
The multinational food manufacturer behind some of the world's best-loved breakfast cereals, The Kellogg Company (K -0.41%) has seen its stock grow steadily since its market debut in 1979. Indeed, the company is celebrating four decades as a highly profitable public company this year.
Founded way back in 1898 as a health food maker, the company soon came to fame with its iconic Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes cereal. More than a century has passed since then, and Kellogg has proven adept at tailoring its offering to changing public demand through product diversification and ambitious acquisitions. In the 1980s, the company launched its famous Nutri-Grain and Raisin Square brands, propelling it to the forefront of the breakfast cereal bar market. In 2012, it became the world's second-largest snack food company when it acquired Pringles potato chips for $2.7 billion.
In its most recent earnings report, the company noted that its Pringles brand was selling as well as ever. It seems the answer for Kellogg lies in more (and better) acquisitions.
2. Procter & Gamble
A true giant in the consumer goods sector, Procter & Gamble (PG -0.37%) manages an extremely extensive portfolio of brands, of which 23 are worth more than $1 billion. Even more impressively, nearly all of its major brands hold either the No. 1 or No. 2 position in their respective categories.
There are a number of reasons why the company has maintained its hold on the consumer goods market for more than 180 years (it was founded even earlier than Kellogg, in 1837). Not only does it provide the most dependable products in whatever space it enters, but it boasts one of the most vigorous and prolific marketing departments on earth. Indeed, until Samsung surpassed it last year, P&G was the world's largest advertiser.
Apparently taking a page from Nike's textbook, the company showed the world how deep a cultural nerve it could strike this year with its controversial Gillette ad. The outrage caused by the commercial didn't negatively affect sales, but certainly counted as a marketing win.
3. Campbell Soup Company
The Campbell Soup Company (CPB -0.68%) will forever be associated with the classic soup can that adorned the 20th century's billboards and provided Andy Warhol with an unlikely muse, but the company's lineup of brands accounts for a significant cross-section of shelf space across the world's supermarkets. Among the more famous of these are Pepperidge Farm, Prego, and Ragu.
These days, many of the company's decisions are strongly influenced by activist investor Dan Loeb. The billionaire hedge fund manager has been encouraging Campbell to double down on its core range of products in order to drive sales growth. As food becomes a major space for technology start-ups -- including a host of alternative meat manufacturers -- Campbell's seems to be drawing strength from playing a long game and sticking to what it does best.
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