Nestlé USA has come out with its annual list of the top food and beverage trends for 2013. The one that particularly caught my attention is an emphasis on health and nutrition for younger children. Apparently, by the age of two you've already settled on what foods you like and dislike. Therefore, getting kids on the right path early on will make a big difference later in their lives. As Paul Grimwood, CEO of Nestlé USA, states: "... consumers are much more health conscious today than ever before." He's so right. Unfortunately, we're all a little starved for time and need some shortcuts. Here are three companies that help consumers eat healthier. They're my food stocks to watch in 2013.
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This is a stock that's had its ups and downs since its IPO in March 28, 2012, at $19 per share. Hitting a high of $48.85 in mid-September, the marketer of natural and organic comfort foods and snacks couldn't possibly keep up the pace given the analysts' consensus estimate for March 2014 is just $1.03 per share. Annie's is on the move, however, with revenues and profits expected to strengthen as it transitions from the natural food aisle in grocery stores to slots right next to Kraft's (Nasdaq:KRFT) own macaroni and cheese. In fact, it sells as much product to Costco (Nasdaq:COST) and Target (NYSE:TGT) combined as it does to the entire natural food store segment, including retailers such as Whole Foods, (Nasdaq:WFM) where it got its start. Annie's biggest problem (a good one to have) is getting enough product onto its customer's shelves in order to meet demand. Obviously it's not something you want happening on an ongoing basis but it's in a transition phase and these things happen. I'm sure CEO John Foraker will get that remedied in 2013. For those of you that like pizza, Annie's offers both a rising crust pizza and an organic rising crust pizza. Both introduced in 2012, they've already had a big impact on revenue. When Annie's went public I wasn't a believer, but now that it's successfully transitioned into stores such as Costco, I see it as a big takeover target in 2013.
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United Natural Foods (Nasdaq:UNFI)
Annie's fate is intertwined with that of United Natural Foods, the largest distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods in the U.S. and Canada. Approximately 25% of Annie's revenues are generated from United Natural Foods. Without UNFI's 28 distribution centers across the U.S. and Canada shipping to more than 23,000 customer locations, Annie's wouldn't have grown nearly as fast as it has. United Natural Foods is also the primary wholesale natural grocery distributor to Whole Foods until at least 2020. Whole Foods accounts for 36% of UNFI's annual revenues; this is a trio that will succeed together. Unfortunately, as a result, every time Whole Foods gets a cold, so too does UNFI. For this reason it's expanding its customer base with a focus on conventional supermarket customers. In 2011 it began to supply Safeway (NYSE:SFY) with natural, organic and specialty foods, but the distribution of natural and organic products isn't easy. It's an incredibly fragmented industry with lots of regional and local competition. In fiscal 2012, however, UNFI has generated over $5.2 billion, and in 2013 I see UNFI grabbing increased market share through additional sales to existing customers as well as the acquisition of a regional competitor or two. The healthy eating movement isn't going away.
SEE: Why Eating Healthy Won't Break The Bank
Hain Celestial Group (Nasdaq:HAIN)
I've been a fan of Hain's all the way back to June 2001 when it acquired Vancouver-based Yves Veggie Cuisine, a manufacturer of soy-based hot dogs and hamburgers, something I'm not ashamed to admit I eat. They actually taste good. Anyway, since then its revenues have grown 240% from $413 million to $1.4 billion as of June 2012. Hain's operating profits (and margins) have never been higher and neither have its revenues. In August it acquired Premier Foods, a U.K. packaged foods company, for $317 million. The deal gives it access to the British grocery business thereby speeding up its entry into Europe. Hain expects fiscal 2013 revenues to hit around $1.8 billion number. In 2013, I expect that either Hain will acquire Annie's or someone large will acquire Hain.
The Bottom Line
All in all, the healthy foods business seems to be growing, and I'm not sure if there will be anything to slow this trend down any time soon. The previous company's may be worth a closer look today and moving forward. Here's to healthy eating in 2013!
At the time of writing, Will Ashworth did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.