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Take a look at your pantry. If it includes names such as Parkay, Healthy Choice, Chef Boyardee or Orville Redenbacher's, you're helping to pay for
ConAgra Foods' (
CAG) 25-cent quarterly dividend. ConAgra is one of the largest major food processing companies in the world, with a broad stable of retail brands as well as a commercial business that supplies restaurants and food service clients. After holding its dividend constant for the last year, investors are hungry for a hike -- and they look likely to get it.
ConAgra's stable of brands generates significant cash, a critical component to any dividend payout. The firm's exposure to grocery shelves is set to rise too, thanks to the acquisition of private label food maker Ralcorp back in January. That boosted private label business should provide a nice volume complement to the firm's existing household name brands.
Cost inflation is still a big concern for firms like ConAgra. Despite the Fed's battle with deflation (and inflation's inability to remain at or above Bernanke's target rate), soft commodity prices remain at or near their historic highs. A spike in input costs would translate into a squeeze in margins. Right now, however, CAG is sporting hefty enough margins to support a dividend hike. Investors should stay tuned.