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. And even if you love an investment, it's always Foolish to play devil's advocate, probing for its potential weak spots. To keep you and your portfolio ready for anything, I've highlighted two reasons to loathe Campbell
Global shelf space
Last week, I warmed up a pot of love for Campbell, naming the iconic soup and sauce maker a consistent performer for uncertain times. In this follow-up profile, I'll do my darnedest to sour your appetite for shares.
From in-store displays and updated packaging, to dinnertime commercials and Sunday coupons, everyday shoppers know that packaged-foods companies are locked in constant competition. And while regularly rebranding and rolling out new products is a perfectly acceptable business strategy, it's a daily battle that by definition has losers. Abroad, however, worldwide patterns of population and economic growth promise a megatrend from which the entire industry can profit.
But with its emerging markets exposure representing less than 1% of net sales, Campbell has a crumb, while companies such as Kraft
Higher prices trouble consumers
If Campbell's undernourished geographic footprint hasn't stirred your antipathy, perhaps its recent volume performance will. Wet soup as a category has benefitted from recession-induced penny pinching, but Campbell's soup business saw a 1.8% volume decline for the 12 months ended April 2009, versus a 1.7% gain for the overall category. The cause? Campbell's higher prices -- necessitated by cost inflation -- drove consumers toward cheaper private-label products.
In coming quarters, Campbell's extensive product innovations should bring in new business from consumers who are cooking at home more often, helping to replace volume lost from longtime customers who are trading down. But when you have the option to buy a company such as J.M. Smucker
What do you think?
We've made our Foolish case on Campbell -- now it's your turn. Do you loathe Campbell? Love it? Share your comments below.
A hearty bowl of further Foolishness:
J. M. Smucker is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. H.J. Heinz, PepsiCo, and Unilever are Income Investor selections. Unilever is a Global Gains recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.