Lots of experienced investors spend their time looking for pick-and-shovel plays. That is, companies that aren't necessarily wrapped up in flashy mega-trends, but rather the ones that offer supplies and services to those companies that are.

Think of it this way. If Ford or General Motors start building more cars, they'll need more steel, more tires, and more parts. In the recent housing boom, we saw that new housing construction led to more demand for wood, gypsum, and other building materials. And if companies like Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) are going to keep building their pipelines and conducting basic research, they'll need more chemicals, reagents, and assorted supplies.

Enter Sigma-Aldrich (NASDAQ:SIAL). Organic growth was once again quite good -- up over 9% -- and total reported revenue growth nearly came in at 17% for the quarter. Operational profitability was also strong, with operating income up 21%, but a higher tax rate cut the earnings per share growth down to about 6%.

One item that might merit a little concern is the fact that the scientific research business (the company's largest unit) saw the lowest revenue growth. Even still, nearly 7% organic growth isn't bad.

Much as I like the notion of theme investing in the ongoing growth of life sciences and biological research, there just aren't many cheap options. Other plays on this same notion, Millipore (NYSE:MIL) and Fisher (NYSE:FSH), are already fully valued, and it doesn't look like Sigma-Aldrich is a great bargain, either. Given the relative differences in valuation, maybe Fools would be better served sifting among the pharmaceutical and biotech companies themselves for promising value candidates.

For more scientific Foolishness:

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. GlaxoSmithKline is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Take a 30-day free spin with the newsletter that best fits your investing style.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).