Most people know Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) because they know ketchup, but the Pittsburg-based company makes more than 6,000 products and has a much broader market appeal. In 1886, founder Henry Heinz declared, "the world is our field." Hence, the company steadfastly branched out and tailored its products to serve international markets. According to an annual consumer satisfaction survey conducted by the University of Michigan, investors considering adding Heinz to their portfolios would gain exposure to one of America's most trusted brands.
Heinz Ketchup has achieved a 60% share of the retail market for ketchup due to U.S. consumer preference. For the first quarter of 2008, Heinz reported an almost 15% increase in sales, which has been largely attributed to a mixture of increases in product pricing and volume sales. In addition to ketchup sales, other Heinz brands that did well during the quarter include Smart Ones frozen entrées and Ore-Ida frozen potatoes. Second quarter results will be released on November 21.
Heinz's strongest rates of revenue growth were reported from its emerging markets. Heinz's ABC syrup in Indonesia, nutritional drinks in India and Pudliszki sauces and ready-made meals in Poland contributed significantly to the growth in emerging market product sales. In addition, Heinz's infant nutrition products have begun to develop a following in the Italian market.
Heinz is eager for Russians to develop an American-style craving for its ketchup and other products. In 2007, Heinz's CEO William Johnson identified Russia as the second largest ketchup market in the world. According to the press release, the quarter saw "higher pricing on numerous products in Russia." Other consumer food companies that investors should consider include ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) and Campbell Soup (NYSE:CPB). (Since we're on the subject of food, be sure to check out 22 Ways to Fight Rising Food Prices.)
Possible threats to Heinz products include a major shift in eating habits and product substitutes as well as increased food development costs. However, Heinz develops seeds for its own tomato-based products, which gives the company a built-in margin of protection against rising food costs.
The heightened volatility of the market is enough to make many casual investors turn away in hopes of brighter days on the horizon. Instead of waiting idly by for the markets to settle, however, investors would be wise to scan their cupboards and shelves for investment ideas. Frequently-used food products and condiments that come in cans, jars and squeeze bottles are a good start. Heinz is but one example of a consumer food producer plowing inroads with consumers in the U.S. and abroad.
For added insight, read Using Consumer Spending as a Market Indicator.