NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Food scarcity concerns are heating up and food inflation is increasing alarmingly worldwide. A booming population, shrinking arable lands, rapid industrialization in emerging economies and changing weather patterns around the world could trigger unprecedented food price hikes. Given this scenario, the following food and beverage stocks could provide attractive returns during 2011.

Besides receiving analysts' highest buy ratings of 82%-100%, these stocks are expected to gain up to 139% over the next 12 months with a mean upside value of around 62%, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.

In comparison, Kraft Foods ( KFT), Monsanto ( MON), Coca-Cola ( KO), Archer Daniels Midland ( ADM), and Kellogg ( K) have upsides of 4%-13% and buy ratings of 37%-81%.

Although stocks such as SkyPeople Fruit Juice ( SPU), AgFreed Industries ( FEED), China Nutrifruit Group ( CNGL), Synutra International ( SYUT), and G Willi-Ford International ( WILC) have 100% buy ratings and impressive upsides, we did not consider them here as only a couple of analysts cover these stocks.

These 10 food and beverage stocks are stacked in the ascending order of percentage of buy ratings and, in case of a tie-up, by implied percentage upside.

10. General Mills ( GIS) is a global manufacturer and marketer of branded and packaged foods.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the company to report earnings of 56 cents per share for 2011 third quarter ending Feb., compared to earnings of 48 cents per share and 92 cents per share reported in the year-ago and quarter-ago periods, respectively. Earnings per share are forecast at $2.58 for fiscal 2011 and $2.70 for fiscal 2012, up from earnings of $2.24 per share reported for fiscal 2010.

The stock received 82% buy ratings from 18 of the 22 analysts covering the stock, while 4 analysts rated a hold. In comparison, Kraft Foods, Kellogg, and ConAgra Foods ( CAG) have buy ratings of 67%, 65% and 33%, respectively.

Data from Bloomberg has analysts forecasting an average price target of $40.2, up 12% from the current level. The stock is trading at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 14.5.

9. Herbalife ( HLF) is a network marketing company engaged in selling weight management foods, nutritional supplements and personal care products.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the company to report earnings of $1.11 per share for 2010 fourth quarter, surpassing 88 cents per share in the year-ago period Earnings per share are pegged at $4.48 for 2010 and $5.21 for 2011, up from $3.22 reported for 2009.

The stock's return-on-equity was 67.7% during the past 12 months, whereas Avon Products ( AVP), Nu Skin Enterprise ( NUS), and USANA Health Sciences ( USNA) had ROEs of 41.4%, 32.1% and 41.6%, respectively.

Of the nine analysts covering Herbalife, eight recommend buying, while one suggests hold, representing 89% buy ratings. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg assign an average price target of $74.6, 11% higher than the current level.

8. Cosan ( CZZ) produces ethanol and sugar, markets and distributes fuel and lubricants in Brazil, and provides logistics services in the state of Sao Paulo.

The stock gained 47% during the past one year, while Seaboard ( SEB), Archer Daniels Midland ( AVD) and Imperial Sugar ( IPSU) delivered 76%, 12% and -24%, respectively.

Cosan is currently trading at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 12.9 and EV-to-EBITDA ratio of 6.2.

Of the 9 analysts covering Cosan, 8 recommend buying, and 1 suggests, representing 89% buy ratings. Analysts expect the stock to gain around 53% over the next 12 months with a consensus target price of $19.7.

7. Inventure Foods ( SNAK) manufactures and markets a variety of owned, or licensed, branded snack foods.

The stock rose 59.1% during the past one year, while J&J Snack Foods ( JJSF), John B. John B. Sanfilippo & Son ( JBSS), and Golden Enterprises ( GLDC) returned around 4.4%, -24.8% and -6.5%, respectively.

All the analysts covering the stock affirmed 100% buy ratings. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect Inventure to gain an average 21% over the next 12 months.

At $4.12, the stock is currently trading at a forward PE multiple of 16.5.

6. Primo Water ( PRMW) sells purified bottled water and water dispensers through retailers.

The company reported a loss of 57 cents per share for 2010 fourth quarter, taking overall losses to $3.88 per share, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. However, profitability is likely to improve with earnings per share of 55 cents for 2011 and $1.27 for 2012.

Data from Bloomberg has analysts predicting an average 12-month target price of $18.3, up 43% from the current level. In comparison, Middleby ( MIDD) has an upside of 2%.

Analysts covering the stock assigned 100% buy ratings.

5. Medifast ( MED) is engaged in the production, distribution, sale of weight management and disease management products, including the Medifast weight-loss program.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the company to report earnings per share of 33 cents for 2010 fourth quarter, compared to earnings of 21 cents per share and 39 cents per share in the year-ago and quarter-ago periods, respectively. Medifast is likely to report earnings per share of $1.43 for 2010 and $1.84 for 2011, up from earnings of 81 cents per share for 2009, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.

The stock will likely provide an upside of 51% over the next 12 months with a consensus target price of $38.7, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg. On the other hand, Hospira ( HSP), Weight Watchers International ( WTW), and Nutrisystem ( NTRI) are seen returning around 11%, -7% and 31%, respectively.

The stock's current forward PE multiple is18.0 and EV-to-EBITDA multiple is 9.0. All four analysts covering the stock recommend buying.

4. China New Borun ( BORN) produces and distributes corn-based edible alcohol.

The stock's return-on-equity during the past 12 months was 41.0% relative to 9.1%, 4.4%, -11.8% and 5.9% ROEs for Castle Brands ( ROX), Constellation Brands ( STZ), Fortune Brands ( FO), and Central Europe Distribution ( CEDC), respectively.

Analysts covering the stock assigned 100% buy ratings. Data from Bloomberg has analysts predicting 91% growth over the next 12 months with a consensus target price of $22.

At $11.49, the stock is currently trading at a forward PE multiple of 6.9 and EV-to-EBITDA multiple of 5.5.

3. American Lorain ( ALN) is a China-based integrated food company engaged in the development, manufacture and sale of processed food products.

For 2010 fourth quarter, data from Bloomberg has analysts forecasting earnings per share of 30 cents, up from 24 cents per share and 16 cents per share reported in the year-ago and quarter-ago periods, respectively. For full-year, the company is likely to see earnings per share of 65 cents for 2010, 72 cents for 2011 and 90 cents for 2012, as against earnings of 55 cents per share for 2009.

At $2.88, the stock is trading at an attractive price-to-earnings multiple of 3.5. In comparison, China Nutrifruit Group ( CNGL), Omega Protein ( OME), Smart Balance ( SMBL), and SkyPeople Fruit Juice ( SPU) are trading at PE multiples of 5.8, 13.6, 42.3 and 5.1, respectively.

Analysts covering the stock recommend buying. The stock has 100% upside over the next 12 months with a consensus target price of $5.75, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.

2. China's Yuhe International ( YUII) supplies day-old chickens raised for meat production, or broilers.

Data from Bloomberg has analysts estimating the company's earnings per share at 35 cents for 2010 fourth quarter, up from 23 cents per share in the year-ago period. For full year 2010, the company to likely to report earnings per share of $1.21, while the same is seen at $1.67 for 2011 and $2.84 for 2012, against 81 cents per share for 2009.

During the past 12 months, return-on-equity was 26.4%, while Pilgrim's Pride ( PPC), Industrias Bachoco ( IBA), Sanderson Farms ( SAFM) and Cal-Maine Foods ( CALM) had ROEs of -60.3%, 5.6%, 25.0% and 19.1%, respectively.

The stock is currently trading at an attractive forward price-to-earnings multiple of 7.6 and EV-to-EBITDA ratio of 6.2.

Analysts covering the stock rate a buy and project 101% gains over the next 12 months and a consensus target price of $16.7.

1. China Marine Food Group ( CMFO), through its subsidiaries, engages in processing, distributing and marketing fresh fish and processed seafood-based snacks.

The company is likely to report earnings of 19 cents per share for 2010 fourth quarter, compared to earnings of 18 cents per share and 14 cents per share in the year-ago and quarter-ago periods, respectively, as per analysts polled by Bloomberg. For full-year, analysts foresee the company reporting earnings per share of 74 cents for 2010 and 93 cents for 2011, up from earnings of 60 cents per share for 2009.

During the past 12 months, the return-on-equity was 27.8%, while competitors Zhongpin ( HOGS), Andersons ( ANDE), Alico ( ALCO) and Limoneira ( LMNR) had ROEs of 18.7%, 10.3%, -0.6% and -6.2%, respectively.

The stock is currently trading at an attractive forward price-to-earnings multiple of 4.7 and EV-to-EBITDA ratio of 3.3.

Analysts covering the stock recommend buying and expect China Marine Food Group to gain around 139% over the next 12 months with a consensus target price of $9.0.
This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.