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4. Sysco (SYY)

Forward yield: 3.7%

Sysco distributes food products to restaurants, health care and educational facilities, and hotels. The company operates 177 distribution facilities serving about 400,000 customers and generates more than $39 billion in annual sales. Sysco has increased dividends 43 times in 40 years.

In the past five years, earnings have grown roughly 8% a year. Although earnings were flat year-over-year at $1.2 billion in the fiscal year ended July 2, 2011, EPS was 4% higher at $1.94 compared with $1.86 in 2010.

In November, Sysco hiked the dividend by 4% to a $1.08 annual rate. The new dividend is payable on Jan. 27, 2012, to shareholders of record on Jan. 6, 2012.

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