Consumer stocks are now as risky as they've ever been. Unemployment's historically high, consumers are spooked, and subpar earnings abound as companies pay the price for lost competitive advantage or fiscal irresponsibility. But tough times can offer investors the best chance to buy stocks.

Even if stock prices are low, investors still need to be careful. Many companies simply won't survive the recession in their current form. However, thinning the herd of weaker competitors should lead to big winners in the consumer space when the economy recovers. In this article, I've highlighted two reasons to love Campbell (NYSE:CPB), maker of the eponymous soups, as well as V8, Pace, and Pepperidge Farm brand products.

Andy Warhol: investment guru
Although the packaging may have changed from the days of Warhol's Pop Art paintings, the Campbell soup brand remains an American icon. Not so sure about that? Just ask U.S. households, which sip, spoon, and slurp 49 servings of Campbell's mmm ... mmm goodness per year, helping to make it the world's largest soup manufacturer.

In fact, few foods rank more importantly than soup in the lunch-and-dinner chow-down, and U.S. consumers have deepened their brothy love as food costs and economic conditions turn for the worse. Those trends helped power Campbell's recent quarterly earnings beat.

Alongside thin-wallet syndrome, consumers tend to fret over their bulging waistlines, and Campbell's products stand to benefit here as well. Nourishing changes to existing soups -- including sodium reductions, leaner meats, and higher vegetable contents -- should help the company compete with General Mills' (NYSE:GIS) Progresso brand and the private-label soups produced by TreeHouse (NYSE:THS).

If you're like me, you get nervous when company management shows signs of complacency. That's not the case at Campbell, which provides my second reason for heating up a pot of chicken-noodle love. In its pursuit of various supply chain efficiencies, the company has benchmarked itself against the most successful operators in particular areas, including the diverse likes of DuPont (NYSE:DD), Toyota (NYSE:TM), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

Sure, many companies stick to industry-specific comparisons, but Campbell's willingness to gauge beef barley against car parts shows some real out-of-the-box (or can) thinking. And if improving operating metrics are any clue, it's the sort of approach that sets the table for long-term success.

For all you Foolish Warhol fans, I can't say that Campbell shares will put Pop of a different variety in your portfolio, but the company does offer a recipe for consistent performance. In this environment, that's worth more than 15 minutes of fame.

What do you think?
We've made our Foolish case on Campbell -- now it's your turn. Do you love Campbell? Loathe it? Share your comments below.

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Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Mike Pienciak doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy is fond of grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup lunches.