Why settle for ordinary quarterly reports? Every week, I examine three companies that beat market expectations.

If a stock trumps the analysts' estimates, I believe it's far more likely to outperform the market as a whole, too. A company that leaves Wall Street's pros in the dust usually has more in the tank than analysts figured, and capital appreciation often follows. In that spirit, let's take a look at a few companies that humbled the prognosticators over the past few trading days.

We'll start with Heinz (NYSE:HNZ). The supermarket staple posted net income of $0.76 a share during its fiscal third quarter. Healthier pricing, strong sales of its flagship ketchup, soup, and pasta-sauce lines, and a smart decision to hedge its currency exposure as the dollar strengthened saved the day. Investors were only expecting a profit of $0.64 a share, after earning $0.68 a share a year earlier.

Marvel Entertainment (NYSE:MVL) is another topper. Wall Street expected the superhero stable to double last year's fourth-quarter profit of $0.35 a share. Clocking in at $0.70 a share would have been heroic, but isn't Marvel superheroic? Fueled by brisk sales of Iron Man on DVD, the company scored net income of $0.80 a share for the period. That's a welcome contrast to other moviemakers like DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA), which have fallen short in their latest quarters.

Finally, United Natural Foods (NASDAQ:UNFI) checks in with healthy results. The organic specialist earned $0.32 a share in its latest quarter, a nearly 50% improvement over last year's showing. Analysts would've settled for $0.31 a share. The company's bottom line would have looked even better, if not for the dilutive impact of a recent acquisition.

United Natural Foods has always been a way to piggyback on the success of Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI). Whole Foods and its Wild Oats appendage account for 31% of United's sales last year. That's down from a combined 35% slice a year earlier. In other words, United Natural Foods has been able to grow by expanding its reach into more conventional grocers and warehouse clubs. That's a welcome move, given the beating Whole Foods is currently taking.

Keep watching the companies that trounce expectations. Over time, it can pay off for investors, as the market rewards these overachievers. That's the kind of surprise we look for in the Rule Breakers newsletter service. Want in? Check out a 30-day trial subscription.

Either way, come back next Monday to learn about more stocks that blew the market away.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.