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. Chart Advisor

    Copper Continues Its Descent

    Copper prices have been under pressure lately and based on these charts it doesn't seem that it will reverse any time soon.
  2. Options & Futures

    Cyclical Versus Non-Cyclical Stocks

    Investing during an economic downturn simply means changing your focus. Discover the benefits of defensive stocks.
  3. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Buying Vanguard Mutual Funds Vs. ETFs

    Learn about the differences between Vanguard's mutual fund and ETF products, and discover which may be more appropriate for investors.
  4. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETFs Vs. Mutual Funds: Choosing For Your Retirement

    Learn about the difference between using mutual funds versus ETFs for retirement, including which investment strategies and goals are best served by each.
  5. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    How to Reinvest Dividends from ETFs

    Learn about reinvesting ETF dividends, including the benefits and drawbacks of dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) and manual reinvestment.
  6. Investing Basics

    How to Deduct Your Stock Losses

    Held onto a stock for too long? Selling at a loss is never ideal, but it is possible to minimize the damage. Here's how.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Best 3 Vanguard Funds that Track the Top 500 Companies

    Discover the three Vanguard funds tracking the S&P 500 Index, and learn about the characteristics and historical statistics of these funds.
  8. Forex Fundamentals

    How to Buy Chinese Yuan

    Discover the different options that are available to investors who want to obtain exposure to the Chinese yuan, including ETFs and ETNs.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Fees: Why BlackRock is the Latest to Cut Them

    Low expense ratios are a big selling point for ETFs, but are they being focused on too much?
  10. Economics

    Is Wall Street Living in Denial?

    Will remaining calm and staying long present significant risks to your investment health?
  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 >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center