Upset Investors tell global brands to take greater risks like their small competitors

February 24
1:08 PM 2014

As their smaller competitors take risk head on and continue to get their share of the market, global consumer brands like Cadbury, Campbell Soup and Tide are reducing costs and remaking their brands. These steps, however, are not making their investors very happy, Reuters reported.

While stalwarts like ConAgra Foods Inc, Danone SA and General Mills are struggling, smaller companies like WhiteWave Foods Co which sells organic and soy milk, Chobani Greek which is a privately-owned yogurt maker and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc which offers Keurig coffee brewer are disrupting their respective groups and posting desirable growth, the report said.

Investors typically turn to consumer product companies in unsure times but these firms have been dealing with poor demand from North American and European markets and declining emerging markets. The challenge is even made more difficult with customers that have grown increasingly unpredictable with social media and Internet-based search and pricing comparison sites and tools at their disposal, the report said.

After the acquisition of HJ Heinz in 2013, investors turned heavily to stocks of packaged foods in a bid to capitalize on the dividend increases and possible takeovers. However, trading out has started which resulted to consumer staples posting the worst performance in the past six months, the report said.

The end is not in sight, however, as analysts caution that shares could dip further. In the past five years, the Standard & Poor's 1200 Consumer Staples index returned a total of 117%, putting it in sixth place among the ten sectors included. In the past six months, however, its return declined 0.55%, making it the worst performer among the ten sectors, the report said.

Large companies have offloaded food brands that have not risen to expectations, such as Nestle's shedding of PowerBar and Unilever's of its Skippy peanut butter brand. For majority of the firms operating in this segment, however, brand makeovers through purchases, divestments or introduction of new products have not really made much difference, the report said.

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