What happened

Shares of packaged food company B&G Foods (NYSE:BGS) dropped a quick 10% on March 3. The big news was earnings, which had come out after the closing bell on March 2. Investors weren't pleased, though on the surface the results were pretty solid.  

So what

B&G Foods brought in $510 million worth of revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020, up 8.5% year over year. Earnings for the quarter were $0.19 per share, up nearly 19% compared to the final stanza of 2019. In the packaged food space those would normally be pretty solid numbers...even good ones. But 2020 was not a normal year, and investors were clearly looking for something more, noting that these results were below analyst estimates.

An arm pointing to graph on computer screen.

Image source: Getty Images.

However, the problem isn't really in the year-over-year numbers, it's in B&G Foods' sequential quarterly results. Second-quarter 2020 sales increased 38% year over year, with earnings up nearly 87%. Third-quarter 2020 sales were higher by 22% year over year, with earnings rising 37%. Compared to those results, the fourth quarter was something of a letdown. In fact, the trend here suggests that the early sales boost from the economic shutdowns and social distancing used to slow the spread of the coronavirus are quickly starting to ebb. That is most likely what has investors in a negative mood this morning.  

Now what

B&G Foods is close to lapping what are likely to be very difficult comparison quarters as 2021 gets underway. If the current sales trends hold, quarterly updates this year could be less than inspiring, at least in the second and third quarters, which were outliers compared to the first and fourth quarters of 2020. Wall Street can be mercurial at times, particularly when earnings results disappoint. Long-term investors might want to steel themselves for some volatility here over the next few quarters. 

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.