Consumer staples are, by definition, businesses that produce those products we just can't live without. Things like food, beverages, hygiene items and other household necessities, like first aid product and beer. It stands to reason, then, that these stocks should also have tremendous long-term growth records. (To learn more, see A Guide To Investing In Consumer Staples.)

With that in mind we searched the field and focused on three big-name food producers. Specifically, companies that have at least 10 years of history behind them and reasonable current fundamentals. Their product lines will be familiar to most, but perhaps their valuations aren't. Here they are with recent, salient news items to bring you up-to-date.

IN PICTURES: Eight Ways To Survive A Market Downturn

American Pie Starch
ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG), based in Omaha Nebraska, is one of the country's biggest potato and sweet potato suppliers to the restaurant, food service and commercial food production industries. The stock pays shareholders a reasonable 3.7% dividend and trades with a price/earnings ratio of 13.

This summer, ConAgra purchased American Pie, LLC - a private company that makes frozen desserts - and sold off much of its holdings in Gilroy Foods & Flavors.

CAG stock is down 5% in the last 12 months. This is a poor showing compared with the rest of the sector, represented by the PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (NYSE:PBJ). That ETF is up 17.5% over the same period. Against the broader SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE:SPY), a proxy for the popular big-cap index, ConAgra still trails. Shares of SPY have climbed 7% in the last year.

Long term, however, ConAgra is a clear winner. Since it went public 32 years ago the stock is up 4846%, or an annualized 151% per year.

Dow Component
Kraft Foods, Inc. (NYSE:KFT) joined the illustrious Dow Jones Industrial Average in September of 2008, the depths of the last stock market wipeout. The company's shares deliver a fine 3.7% dividend and trade with a P/E of 18.29. Shares in Kraft are up 17.3% in the last year's trade.

Kraft's product line includes the nutritious and savory Oscar Mayer meat line, Oreo cookies and macaroni lovers' Kraft Dinner.

Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. (Nasdaq:CALM) sells eggs - over 800 million dozen per year. CALM stock pays 3.8% annually, trades with a P/E of 10.94 and was up better than 12% on the last year. Since its IPO in 1996, the shares have climbed an average of 51% per year.

The Wrap
Eating your way rich, is one way to describe participation in the fortunes of these companies. Over the long haul, there are few stocks as delectable.

Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!

Related Articles
  1. Investing News

    Who Does Cheap Oil Benefit? See This Stock (DG)

    Cheap oil won't benefit most companies, but this retailer might buck that trend.
  2. Investing

    How to Ballast a Portfolio with Bonds

    If January and early February performance is any guide, there’s a new normal in financial markets today: Heightened volatility.
  3. Stock Analysis

    Performance Review: Emerging Markets Equities in 2015

    Find out why emerging markets struggled in 2015 and why a half-decade long trend of poor returns is proving optimistic growth investors wrong.
  4. Investing News

    Today's Sell-off: Are We in a Margin Liquidation?

    If we're in market liquidation, is it good news or bad news? That party depends on your timeframe.
  5. Investing News

    Bank Stocks: Time to Buy or Avoid? (WFC, JPM, C)

    Bank stocks have been pounded. Is this the right time to buy or should they be avoided?
  6. Stock Analysis

    Why the Bullish Are Turning Bearish

    Banks are reducing their targets for the S&P 500 for 2016. Here's why.
  7. Stock Analysis

    How to Find Quality Stocks Amid the Wreckage

    Finding companies with good earnings and hitting on all cylinders in this environment, although possible, is not easy.
  8. Chart Advisor

    How Are You Trading The Breakdown In Growth Stocks? (VOOG, IWF)

    Based on the charts of these two ETFs, bearish traders will start turning their attention to growth stocks.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Pimco’s Top Funds for Retirement Income

    Once you're living off the money you've saved for retirement, is it invested in the right assets? Here are some from PIMCO that may be good options.
  10. Chart Advisor

    Watch This ETF For Signs Of A Reversal (BCX)

    Trying to determine if the commodity markets are ready for a bounce? Take a look at the analysis of this ETF to find out if now is the time to buy.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Should mutual funds be subject to more regulation?

    Mutual funds, when compared to other types of pooled investments such as hedge funds, have very strict regulations. In fact, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do ETFs pay capital gains?

    Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can generate capital gains that are transferred to shareholders, typically once a year, triggering ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do real estate hedge funds work?

    A hedge fund is a type of investment vehicle and business structure that aggregates capital from multiple investors and invests ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Are Vanguard ETFs commission-free?

    While some Vanguard exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are available commission-free from third-party brokers, a large portion ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do Vanguard ETFs require a minimum investment?

    Vanguard completely waives any U.S. dollar minimum amounts to buy its exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and the minimum ETF investment ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can mutual fund expense ratios be negative?

    Mutual fund expense ratios cannot be negative. An expense ratio is the sum total of all fees charged by an asset management ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center