It sounds ridiculous to suggest that a $247 billion company could possibly fly under anyone's radar. But when you think of consumer staples stocks, chances are the usual suspects like Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) come to mind. There's obviously good reason for this, since P&G is one of the biggest companies in America with dozens of universally known brands.
And yet, P&G is a smaller company than the one I'm referring to. The company I'm alluding to is Nestle (NASDAQOTH:NSRGY), the largest consumer goods company in the world.
Despite its huge size and stature, Nestle might not be as well-known as some of its American counterparts. Nestle is headquartered in Switzerland, and doesn't trade on a major U.S. exchange. In fact, Nestle shares trade over the counter. But in no way does that make Nestle less deserving of your attention.
Brand strength and diversity provides scale
There's a reason Nestle has resisted calls to split itself or spin off certain brands. Management believes that operating a company of its size holds inherent advantages, particularly when it comes to research and development. R&D investments in one area of the business, such as in nutrition on the health sciences side, which can directly aid other groups. This allows it to keep overall costs low and produce strong profitability, even while sales growth remains modest.
Nestle sells everything from candy bars, to bottled water, to pet food. In all, Nestle holds more than 2,000 brands and it offers them in more than 80 countries. To some, this may be considered reason to pursue a spin-off. Some investors believe that the company's parts are worth more than the whole.
But keeping its massive brand portfolio under one umbrella hasn't held Nestle back. In fact, Nestle produced 4% organic sales growth last year along with 11% growth in earnings per share in constant currencies. This is a testament to the company's powerful brands and its ability to effectively manage costs.
And, Nestle's global reach means the company is realizing strong growth from the emerging markets. Last year, Nestle produced 9% organic sales growth in the emerging markets, compared to just 1% in the developed markets.
A huge and diversified brand portfolio is what makes P&G such a strong company as well. P&G has been in business for 176 years, and sells its products in more than 180 countries across the globe. It holds 25 brands, which each bring in at least $1 billion in annual sales. Just a few of its core brands include Tide, Crest, and Gillette.
This has allowed P&G to post strong, consistent results year in and year out for decades. In turn, shareholders have been rewarded handsomely. P&G has passed along increases to its dividend for 58 years in a row. Likewise, Nestle maintains a serious commitment to paying a strong dividend, which gives investors income in addition to growth.
Nestle has plenty to offer
Nestle might not be your first choice in the consumer staples space, but you'd be wise to consider it, if you're looking for a company that can offer both growth and income. Nestle has a huge portfolio of well-known brands, which provide dependable profits that allow it to pay a solid 3% dividend. And before you get to thinking that this is a lumbering giant, you should know that the company is growing, particularly in emerging markets.
Nestle management contends its size is an advantage, because it allows the company to "scale up" research and development costs. So despite its size, it's by no means out of room to grow.
Bob Ciura has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble. 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.