Contrary to popular belief, you can actually make very high returns in the stock market by buying businesses that are not doing anything new and revolutionary. Wall Street tends to love companies that are changing the world, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I believe a smart investor should anchor a portfolio around a few solid companies. If a company has been doing the same thing for the last 100 years there is a fairly good chance that it will do the same thing for the next 100 years, which will help guide strong performance in a long-term portfolio.
The bread aisle
Flowers Foods has been in the bakery business for nearly 100 years, as it opened its doors in Georgia in 1919. Fast forward to 2014 and you find a company that largely does the same thing that it did 95 years ago--sell bread--although it has recently expanded into other lines such as snack cakes.
It has several leading brands in its portfolio that include Nature's Own, Wonder, and Sunbeam. Though there is nothing flashy about this, the company has acquired quite a large market share for a product that is in every American pantry.
This simple-yet-consistent business has been able to grow its revenues by an average of over 9% per year over the last ten years, with revenue only falling in one of those years. Its margins have also become wider over the last ten years, and this has helped boost its earnings per share by over 17% per year on average.
The liquor cabinet
Another company that has been around doing the same thing for many, many years is Brown-Forman. The company was founded in 1870 and sold Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, which was the United States' first bottled bourbon.
Now, over 140 years later, Brown-Forman has transformed into a large global spirits producer that produces over 25 brands, with the largest brand being Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey.
Again, a simple business model in which a company sells a product that appears in many households produces consistent results that investors can rely on. Although the company's growth hasn't been as fast as that of Flowers Foods, as Brown-Forman grew its revenues and earnings per share by 2.5% and 9.3%, respectively, on average for the last ten years, the company is running an efficient operation. The company's operating margin has grown by approximately 70% from where it was ten years ago, and its net margin has nearly doubled to stand at nearly 21% for the last fiscal year.
The sweet tooth
The Hershey Company has been producing some of America's favorite treats since 1894 and is now the world's largest chocolate and candy maker.
In a highly competitive segment such as sweets you would expect a lot of pricing pressure to result in a low-margin business, but this is where strong brand names come in handy for a company and its investors. Consumers know the Hershey, Reeses, and Kit Kat brands as the best, so they are willing to pay the extra few cents to purchase what they know is a quality product that is superior to those of other brands. This is shown by the company's net profit margin, which has averaged around 9.5% over the last ten years.
Again, like Flowers and Brown-Forman, Hershey has delivered steady results lately. The company's revenues have grown by an average of 5% over the last ten years, and only fell in one year. Earnings per share have also grown fairly consistently at over 4.5% per year over the last ten years.
These companies are not flashy but do what they do extremely well. As they have been around for a century while doing the same thing, these companies have made it through depressions, recessions, and booms, which makes me confident that they will survive over the next century.
You can become rich relatively quickly by investing in the next Google or Microsoft, yet you can also lose everything that way, which is more often the case. So before you invest in more speculative companies, it can never hurt to own several solid companies such as Flowers Foods, Brown-Forman, or Hershey to anchor your portfolio for long-term growth.
Jacob Meredith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Flowers Foods and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (C shares) and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.