With consumers becoming more and more aware of their personal health, eating organic has become the new mantra. The last ten years have seen a radical rise in the use of organic products around the world. With global sales of organic products reaching $63 billion, the industry has grown by 170% from 2002 and averaged growth of almost 19% each year. US is the largest single market for organic food with almost $32 billion of sales originating from here. There have been a number of companies: the major one's being Hain Celestial Group (NASDAQ:HAIN), United Natural Foods (NYSE:UNFI) and Whole Foods Markets (NASDAQ:WFM), that have been riding this growth wave. But the prime pick of the lot is Hain Celestial.
Performance at a glance
In terms of numbers, this was a record quarter for Hain as its overall revenue jumped 33% to $477.5 million. Sales in the US alone went north by 24% on a year-over-year basis with more than 14 brands delivering double-digit or high single-digit growth. Based on such strong performance, the company reconfirmed its annual earnings guidance range of $2.95 to $3.05, an increase of 16% to 20% compared to fiscal year 2013. Adjusted net income also saw an increase of 32%, reaching $25.3 million.
The company specifically has strong expectations for BluePrint Cleanse, a leading cold juice producer which it acquired last year. Hain Celestial CEO Irwin Simon believes BluePrint will generate revenue to the tune of $50 million this year, doubling next year to $100 million. To facilitate this, Hain has also planned to shift manufacturing to a larger facility. Though products from Blueprint like the detoxifying Green Juice cost as much as $75 for six 16-ounce bottles, they have been a hit with the affluent masses. The steady rise in the organic and natural juice market (13% in 2012) has also encouraged the expectations of the company.
In less than a year alone the stock price of United Foods has sky-rocketed 24.9%. This year, the company also posted a strong performance with sales growing by 16% and operating income growing by 20% compared to the previous fiscal year. The company expects that the accelerated demand which continued into the initial weeks of the current fiscal year will last for the entire year. United Foods finds itself trailing Hain on operating profit margins and a marginally better P/E ratio. However, with an impressive top and bottom-line growth United Foods remains a second favorite in this sector.
Whole Foods on the other hand is struggling for now, at least. With earnings guidance coming short of analyst expectations and management losing conviction about keeping the growth intact, the company has left investors disheartened and the stock price has headed south. Even a dividend hike from $0.10 to $0.12 and a stock buyback program of $500 million could not provide respite. However, if Whole Foods is successful in its efforts to cut through its image of being a luxury organic brand then it could be considered a good buy for the long run considering the potential growth in the organic market. But there could be a lot of unwanted volatility involved in the immediate future.
The Foolish takeaway
What is most likable about Hain is its management's approach. Featuring in the Forbes list of fastest growing companies at the 83rd position, the CEO has his eyes fixed on the number one spot. Hain has picked winners in the forms of Blueprint and Ella's Kitchen and made them champions through its distribution network. The company's outlook remains aggressive both toward acquisitions and innovations. With the organic food culture raging across the world, Hain Celestial remains a stock you should go long on.