At first glance, the spice business may not seem particularly exciting. But McCormick (MKC) proves that's not necessarily so. McCormick is the world's biggest manufacturer and distributor of spices, extracts and seasonings. That focus may be relatively narrow, but it gives McCormick serious command of your grocer's spice aisle. The firm's leading brands include Old Bay, Zatarain's and Thai Kitchen in addition to the McCormick label.
McCormicks reach goes beyond grocery -- it also serves restaurant chains and packaged food firms that use its seasonings in their respective products. Because few firms can boast MKC's operational expertise with spices, it's a go-to firm for clients who need help developing and mass-producing the seasonings they use in large-scale food manufacturing. Some of McCormick's most exciting tailwinds come from emerging markets, where consumers aren't strangers to spices but may be less familiar with the convenience of pre-packaged seasonings. If MKC can extend its margins into developing countries, shareholders stand to benefit.
Shareholder benefits are nothing new for this stock. The firm has paid out a dividend in each of the last 85 straight years, an impressive streak that's spanned both booms and busts. That dedication to shareholder value makes the 11.66 short interest ratio on this stock look overdone. Keep an eye out for Jan. 27 earnings as a potential catalyst.