After spending the past year at a middle-of-the-road three-star rank, Dean Foods (NYSE: DF) has impressed enough top-performing members of our 165,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community to climb up a notch to four stars. A total of 364 members have given their opinion on the food and beverage company, with many of them offering analysis and commentary explaining the recent optimism.

Compressed margins in its milk business took its toll on quarterly earnings and led to a steep drop in Dean Foods' shares in early May, but the stock's dip has brought many CAPS members out in support of the company. With some investors looking for improvement going forward, many are betting the lower share price represents a good long-term opportunity.

With Dean Food's largest customer Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) engaging in price wars and grocers like Supervalu (NYSE: SVU) and Kroger (NYSE: KR) making more shelf space for private-label products, the company has seen a significant impact in its milk business as consumers buy more private-labels items. But it's been making adjustments by cutting costs and realigning its segments, and some CAPS members believe it's making the right moves given the current state of the economy. Its fluid milk volumes ticked higher in the first quarter, and the company looks for improvement toward the back half of the year, despite a lack of guidance.

Similar to Kraft's (NYSE: KFT) Cadbury acquisition contributing to a strong first quarter, Dean Foods' Alpro acquisition last year has helped add to sales in its WhiteWave-Alpro segment. The company looks for the solid path of volume, sales, and profit growth to continue in the segment throughout this year, reflecting a similar sentiment among other branded food companies. General Mills (NYSE: GIS) upped its full year guidance after a strong fiscal third quarter, and H.J. Heinz (NYSE: HNZ) increased its dividend after improving fiscal fourth-quarter results. If Dean Foods can better manage the financial performance of its milk business, some CAPS members see great potential for the company to take advantage of the rebound in the food and beverage sector.

Do you think Dean Foods deserves its raised status? Add your thoughts in the comments box below on this page, or head over to CAPS to rate the company and check out all the information and opinions the community offers, absolutely free.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock recently upgraded his grocery shopping experience with a motorized shopping cart with GPS navigation. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value recommendation. H.J. Heinz is an Income Investor selection. The Fool's disclosure policy makes frequent trips to the store for milk and eggs.