Earnings Preview: Monster, Kraft, Kellogg, J.M. Smucker, Jones Soda

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Here at the Fool we love our seasons: football season, flip-flop season, and our favorite -- earnings season. It's that wonderful time of year when we get to celebrate those picks that outperformed and be humbled by those that didn't.

Each quarter we get to arm ourselves with a new set of expectations and estimates to better judge the economic landscape with. We may not always nail our bets, but taking the initiative to learn about the expectations for a given sector will place investors well ahead of many of their peers. Woody Allen put it best when he observed, "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

With that in mind, here is what you can expect to see out of some of the biggest consumer foods companies this earnings season just by showing up and staying engaged.

Company

Report Date

Est. Earnings

Year-Ago Earnings

% Change

Kellogg (NYS: K) Feb. 2$0.63$0.5124%
J.M. Smucker (NYS: SJM) Feb. 16$1.41$1.373%
Kraft (NYS: KFT) Feb. 21$0.57$0.4624%
Monster Beverage (NAS: MNST) Feb. 23$0.72$0.5336%
Jones Soda (NAS: JSDA) March 5N/A($0.13)NM

Earnings dates and estimates from Yahoo! Finance. N/A = Analyst estimates are not available. NM = not meaningful.

I'm surprised to see some of these changes as high as they are. While Monster Beverage (formerly Hansen Natural), maker of Monster Energy drink, is the rare growth story in this space, Kellogg and Kraft are both expected to post a 24% increase in earnings per share. That's pretty impressive for large companies that tend to make iceberg-like moves. Let's take a closer look at these companies.

Drilling down

  • Kellogg is the first on this list to report, and it's expected to post an impressive 24% gain in EPS over last year. The company's share price is almost exactly where it was 12 months ago, but that's actually good news for investors looking to pick up shares of Kellogg now, because they're currently trading at a P/E of 15.7, one of their lowest multiples since 2009, and much lower than the multiples in the years before that. 2011 was largely a year to rebuild, as Kellogg recovered from embarrassing recalls in 2010. I'm expecting solid growth out of the company in 2012.
  • J.M. Smucker is expected to post practically flat earnings over last year. Analyst sentiment reflects this, with the majority rating it a hold. That doesn't mean the company can't unlock some growth, though. Its coffee division certainly shows the most promise, so stay tuned for any language about its intentions to better leverage that in the future. After raising its dividend halfway through last year, it now yields a solid 2.4%.
  • Kraft, like Kellogg, is pegged to post a 24% EPS growth over last year. Impressive growth like that could be a good omen for its planned spinoff as the company moves to split into a global snacks division and a domestic grocery division. While Kraft is no stranger to successful spinoffs, having itself been spun off from Altria years earlier, I'd personally hold off and see how well the move goes before jumping in. The move to cut 1,600 jobs indicates there was still some operational fat to trim, so while both divisions will probably be more operationally efficient now, I'm in hurry-up-and-wait mode.
  • Monster Beverage -- which up until its recent name-change was known as Hansen Natural -- is the champion of this list, with an expected 36% growth in earnings over last year. The rare growth story in the food and beverage space, it has handsomely rewarded shareholders of past years, but with its P/E of 34.5, some are worried it's outstripped its growth. The company's success is largely tied to the continued expansion of the energy drink market, which is still a question mark for me. Though with no debt, it is certainly more nimble than many companies in this space.
  • Jones Soda has fallen a staggering 57% in share price over the last 12 months. The company has consistently lost money since 2007 and has a steadily shrinking top line. I won't be watching their earnings release with any sort of optimism.

The better way to play earnings
Staying glued to quarterly reports certainly can be exciting, but it sure isn't sustainable. Trying to play quarter-to-quarter swings will certainly burn investors sooner or later. If you're hunting for a better, long-term solution, I invite you to read The Motley Fool's special free report: "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World." In it you'll uncover three ultra-stable companies whose best growth years are still ahead of them. They've set their sights internationally, and are taking emerging markets by storm. The report is free, but it won't be here forever, so click here to access your copy.

At the time this article was published

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