NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Since the stock bottomed out at $63.38 in June, shares of Swiss food giant Nestle ( NSRGY) has had a strong run-up of 12%. I use the word "strong" here as I know very well that six-month gains of 12% would be nothing to write home about in any other sector.
Nevertheless, the packaged food industry, which has been burned by poor volumes and weak prices has been anything but robust. And it certainly hasn't helped that Nestle, despite being one of the world's largest food companies, has disappointed the Street with four consecutive quarters of missed organic growth.
Even so, Nestle, which has been a remarkable company by many standards, hasn't been alone with the growth struggles. Other large food giants like Mondelez (MDLZ) and Unilever (UL), which compete on a global scale, have also underperformed. But on the flip side, unlike several rivals, Nestle management has consistently outperformed its capital costs by earning more than it spends.
The problem, though, is that the Street has come to expect this level of performance. So even in tough economic times and weak volume environments, results like these are taken for granted. And although Nestle's recent 5% year-over-year revenue growth was relatively strong, compared with Danone's (DANOY) 6% growth, the Street seemed broadly unimpressed. And I believe smart investors can still do well by taking a position here.
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First, I won't pretend that Nestle's 4% revenue growth for the first nine months of the year is a hearty figure. But when considering that this year's nine-month revenue of 68.4 billion Swiss francs ($74.5 billion) is up more than 7% from the 60.9 billion earned in 2011, it paints a completely different picture. Not to mention, this year's results arrived under arguably stiffer competitive conditions.