Here's some good news for investors, amid all the (rather justifiable) hand-wringing on Wall Street: Food purveyors have been listening to consumers, and have been responding with healthier fare. Better still, much of it tastes better, too, which gives it a chance of succeeding.

I remember trying a salad at Burger King (NYSE:BKC) nearly 20 years ago. It wasn't very delicious. Salads there and at McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) are much improved these days.

But wait -- there's more! Good news from food companies is not just about salads. Look at what else is happening:

  • General Mills' (NYSE:GIS) Progresso soups will soon be MSG-free. That's a bold move, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB) follow suit. Already, several dozen of its soups contain none of the additive.
  • Pepperidge Farm, a unit of Campbell Soup, is cutting the sodium in eight of its breads by at least 25%. This is good news for us aging baby boomers, but it might be better to see even more sodium cut out.
  • Campbell Soup seems to want to polish its image, because it just named a vice president of corporate social responsibility. Investors who look for companies that do right may now be more interested in the company.
  • We can expect to see not only healthier fare available from food purveyors, but also some old favorite foods. Kellogg (NYSE:K), for example, has reintroduced the Hydrox cookie, at least temporarily, to compete with Kraft's (NYSE:KFT) Oreos. And the Eagle Snacks brand has been bought by a company interested in revitalizing it.

It's not all good news in food-land, though. Food costs have been surging lately. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a basket of 16 food staples costs 10.5% more this year than last. The basket contains a five-pound bag of potatoes, which is up 33%, while apples are up nearly 17%. Items falling in price included eggs, bread, and bacon.

Bottom line
Don't let yourself dismiss boring-sounding old food companies. Many of them are long-term strong performers. Do a little research and you'll see. Campbell Soup, for example, has gained a little in value over the year so far, while the overall market is down. General Mills is up more than 13%!


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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of McDonald's and enjoys Burger King Whopper Jrs. Try our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.