Investors often flock to consumer staples companies because of their stable businesses that produce reliable profits, year-in and year-out. Even when the economy takes a nosedive, companies like The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) and Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) see their earnings stay afloat. After all, even when consumers are under economic distress, they still have to buy everyday household items like toothpaste, soap, and paper towels.
Because of their stability, P&G and Colgate-Palmolive have an ability to pay dividends each and every quarter. What's more, they both have a long track record of increasing their dividends every year. That results in the potential for a compounding machine that dividend enthusiasts crave.
But what if you can only pick one of these two Dividend Aristocrats? Here are some of the recent developments at P&G and Colgate-Palmolive that might help you make the decision.
Powerful brands fuel both companies
P&G holds a huge number of popular brands that provide rock-solid profits. 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 that each bring in at least $1 billion in annual sales. Just a few of its core brands include Bounty, Crest, and Gillette.
P&G generated 3% organic sales growth in its most recent fiscal year, which strips out currency effects, thanks to 3% growth in volumes and 1% growth from pricing increases. Organic earnings per share grew 5%.
Meanwhile, Colgate-Palmolive's brands include its namesake toothpaste and dish soap, along with hand soap brands Irish Spring and Softsoap. Colgate-Palmolive also operates a pet nutrition business, led by the Science Diet brand.
Colgate-Palmolive has put up flat sales over the first half of its current fiscal year. Organic sales, however, increased a more satisfactory 6.5% in the first quarter YOY and 4% in the second quarter YOY, thanks to volume growth and pricing increases. In addition, a portion of its earnings growth was achieved with aggressive share buybacks, which helped reduce Colgate's shares outstanding.
However, the opposite side of the stability of consumer staples companies is that their growth potential is fairly modest. After all, there's only so much toothpaste and soap consumer can buy. Their outlooks leave a lot to be desired in this regard. P&G expects low-single-digit organic sales growth, along with mid-single-digit earnings growth that should be comparable to its fiscal 2014 performance. For its part, Colgate-Palmolive expects only 4.5% growth in diluted EPS for the remainder of the year.
Dividends remain appealing
Despite fairly unimpressive growth prospects, P&G and Colgate-Palmolive can still be counted on for strong dividends. P&G offered a solid 7% dividend increase this year, which is about on par with its typical dividend bumps. Colgate-Palmolive raised its dividend by 6%, which is a bit below its average dividend increases over the past several years.
Over the past five years, P&G has increased its dividend by approximately 8% compounded annually. By contrast, Colgate-Palmolive's five-year dividend compound annual growth rate stands at 10%. Both companies hold similar payout ratios, at roughly two-thirds of EPS.
One notable difference between the two stocks is their respective dividend yield, which links the dividend with the stock price. Colgate-Palmolive yields 2.2% at the current stock price, while P&G provides a 3.1% yield.
Winner: P&G, by a nose
P&G and Colgate-Palmolive are about as similar as you'll find. They operate extremely similar businesses and each raises its dividend by nearly the same amount every year. In addition, their sales and earnings growth have been about the same over the past several months, and their management teams maintain similar growth forecasts. P&G gave investors a slightly stronger dividend increase this year.
Not much separates these two stocks, but if you have to choose between the two, go with P&G's higher yield.
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.