The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
By Ian Wyatt
NEW YORK (TheStreet ) -- During its five years of existence, this company's stock has risen 148%, while the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Consumer Goods Sector Index Fund (IYK), of which it is a member, has risen just 6.3%.
That outperformance, from a typically slow growth sector, is worth taking a closer look at.You're more than likely familiar with this company's products, if not its name. The company is TreeHouse Foods (THS). Last year, TreeHouse saw its share price rise 32%. In 2009, TreeHouse Food's stock returned investors a healthy 43%. Based in Illinois, TreeHouse Foods says that in the United States it sells more than half of the non-dairy coffee creamer (Cremora and private labels), a third of the pickle products, and nearly one-quarter of all salad dressings -- not to mention one-fifth of all canned soups. It also believes that it's both the U.S.'s and Canada's largest producer of private label salad dressings, drink mixes, and instant hot cereals.
These aren't exactly exciting products, but we don't look to consumer staples stocks for excitement. We look to them for consistent gains, and 75% over two years is pretty darn good. While shopping for groceries most people seek out the best value without sacrificing quality. During the recession, many Americans turned to the store brands offered at Kroger (KR), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Safeway (SWY), as a cost-saving alternative to the national names. This was a boom for TreeHouse, since it provides private label products to retailers to resell under their own brand names. Many shoppers are still skipping past better known offerings from Kraft Foods (KFT), Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) or Ralcorp Holdings (RAH), to give the house brands a try and often they've found them to their liking, especially from the savings aspect. TreeHouse Foods, with a market cap of $1.82 billion (2010 net sales were about the same), has been running with the big boys. Its largest customer is Wal-Mart Stores, accounting for 18.5% of its annual sales in 2010. The company was created in 2005, as a spin-off by dairy giant Dean Foods (DF) to shareholders of its specialty foods business.
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