Dividend Aristocrats are an exclusive group of S&P 500 companies that have paid and increased their dividends every year for at least 25 years straight. These companies tend to have stable, cash-generating business models that are perfect for uncertain economic conditions -- such as the one we are in now with the coronavirus pandemic.

If you are looking to invest in companies that are members of this rather exclusive group, here are three Dividend Aristocrats to consider buying and hold forever. The first pick is Walmart (NYSE:WMT), a blue-chip retail giant with a fast-growing e-commerce segment. Next is Hormel Foods (NYSE:HRL), an American food processor set to dramatically outperform the market. And finally, we have Clorox (NYSE:CLX), a diversified manufacturer of cleaning supplies essential in the fight against COVID-19. Let's take a closer look at each.

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1. Walmart: 46 years of increasing dividends 

Walmart operates discount stores and supermarkets around the world, along with a small, rapidly growing e-commerce platform. The U.S. grocery sector is mature, with an average compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.2% over the past five years. But e-commerce is a promising growth opportunity for Walmart because it has a projected CAGR of 11.7% until 2025.

Walmart is one of the biggest revenue generators in the world, with $523.96 billion in total revenue in fiscal 2020 (which ended Jan. 31). While the grocery business grows slowly, e-commerce is a different story. Walmart reported in February that U.S. e-commerce sales grew at a 37% clip, from $15.7 billion of net sales to $21.5 billion, while international e-commerce revenue grew 76% from $6.7 billion of net sales to $11.8 billion in the same period. 

Walmart's e-commerce business is still small, but its vast network of brick-and-mortar locations will give it an edge in the competitive industry. Walmart stores are located close to customers, so the company can enlist the help of DoorDash and other delivery companies to get goods to people without needing to develop an in-house delivery service.

Walmart stock has a dividend yield of 1.75%, and the company has grown its dividend payout for 42 years running. With a payout ratio of just 41% of diluted EPS, there is plenty of room for growth in the future. Management boosts its cash return with a $20 billion share repurchase program that started in 2017 and still has $5.7 billion worth of shares eligible to be repurchased as of Jan. 31.

2. Hormel Foods: 54 years of dividend increases

Hormel Foods has dramatically outperformed the wider market during the coronavirus pandemic, with shares rising 6% year to date compared to a 12% decline in the S&P 500. This is because the company enjoys a robust, recession-resistant business model. People have to eat, even in bad economic times -- and that's what makes Hormel a stock to buy and hold forever.

Hormel's total sales rose by 0.84% in the first quarter, from $2.36 billion to $2.38 billion, while the company's international segment rose 5.4% from $153.55 million to $161.89 million year over year. With an expanding global middle class driving demand for meat, international sales will be a massive growth opportunity for Hormel going forward.

In the near term, Asian meat imports are set to skyrocket due to outbreaks of swine fever that have led China and Vietnam to cull huge numbers of pigs since 2018. This should boost Hormel's export volume of processed meats from the U.S.

Hormel has reaffirmed its guidance for the full year of 2020, despite coronavirus-related challenges in the economy. Management expects net sales to come in between $9.50 billion to $10.3 billion and diluted EPS to between $1.69 and $1.83. The company sports a dividend yield of 1.95%, and it has increased its payout for 54 years in a row. Hormel looks capable of raising its payout for decades to come because of the stability and growth potential in the food business.

3. Clorox: 42 years of increasing dividends

Clorox manufactures and markets non-durable consumer cleaning supplies such as bleach, trash bags, and cat litter. Like Hormel, the company has outperformed the wider market during the coronavirus pandemic, with shares up 36% compared to a decline of 12% in the S&P 500.

Clorox is performing well because its disinfectant products are considered essential in the fight against COVID-19. Net sales surged 14.84% from $1.55 billion to $1.78 billion in the fiscal third quarter, which ended on March 31, 2020. The company saw growth in all of its major segments, but its flagship cleaning supplies business led the pack with a 32% jump in sales from $508 billion to $671 billion on surging demand for bleach, Clorox wipes, and other disinfectants to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Demand for cleaning products will remain elevated because people are now more aware of the importance of hygiene, especially in the travel and healthcare industries where the risk of contagion is high. Over the long term, Clorox stock may act as an effective hedge against pandemic risk in the global economy, and that's why it's an investment to buy and hold forever.

Clorox has a dividend yield of 2.06%, and it has increased its payout for 42 years straight. The company generated a diluted EPS of $6.32 in fiscal 2019 and paid a dividend of $3.24 per share, giving it a sustainable payout ratio of just 51.27% of diluted EPS.


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.