There are few industries more defensive than food and the strong cash flows that the leaders in these sectors generate, making them handy for investors seeking consistent and defensive returns.
One stock to consider is HJ Heinz (HNZ) the global sauce manufacturer which has more than $10 billion in revenue and products that enjoy either first or second place in terms of market share in more than 50 countries. Established in 1869, the company employs more than 32,000 people across the globe.
Some of the key brands include frozen potatoes Ore-Ida, Heinz Beans and Plasmon which is regarded as Italy's most trusted baby food offering.
When the company reported fourth quarter earnings at the end of May it announced that it had raised its 2011 dividend 12 cents to $1.80 putting it on an historic yield of just under 3.77%. For the quarter, the company earned $192.4m or 60 cents per share for the three months that ended April 28. This was up just under 10% from the previous year, beating analyst expectations.
Heinz also delivered operating cash flow of just over $1bn.
The company is likely to enjoy another year of strong growth on a constant currency basis for Fiscal 2011. The outlook is based on robust plans for the brands and businesses. The business is growing its core portfolio by accelerating growth in emerging markets, where there is still much room to expand.
In terms of the dividend the company has been a consistent payer raising its dividend 40 out of the last 41 years and has told stakeholders that this is a "top priority" for the group. It is also putting its money where its mouth is and has now grown its dividend almost 67% over the last seven years for a compound annual growth rate of 7.6%.