Heretofore, food companies such as General Mills (GIS), Heinz and Pepsico (PEP) had been trudging forth like unsung heroes, racking up profits and doling out cash with increasing dividends. Take a look at the 10-year chart for any of these companies (save those very nasty years 2008-2010, which were difficult for all of us) and you will see images so beautiful they could make a capitalist cry.
Buffett's Heinz deal certainly made its mark as the chart I offered last week showed the jump in P/E ratios pre- and post-announcement.
While I still feel comfortable with the stepped-up valuation of these companies -- and in fact we own PEP, Monsanto (MON), Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Kellogg (K) and GIS in customer accounts and in the GMG Defensive Beta Fund (MPDAX) which I co-manage -- not everyone likes buying and owning individual stocks.
Still, if you want to (pick your metaphor) have a seat at the table, join in the feast or go for the smorgasbord rather than the entrees, I would recommend taking a closer look at the PowerShares Dynamic Food & Beverage (PBJ) exchange-traded fund. The PBJ has been really cooking over the past three years, returning compound annual growth of 16.93% against the S&P 500, which delivered compound annual growth of 12.67%. In the last year, PBJ has delivered a muscular 20.91% while the S&P 500 delivered 13.96%. That's a lot of alpha. Is it too late to get in? In my view, no. There are risks, but they are less perilous than those faced by some other segments. That is, while the market for on-site enterprise software might fade away in favor of cloud-based solutions, and while tablets may cannibalize the PCs, and bookstores may turn into quaint memories, you can pretty much count on those who can eating three square meals a day for the rest of their lives. This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.