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Here's a Performer for Your Portfolio

Thursday - 11/15/2012, 3:23pm  ET

The dairy industry has seen a lot of ups and downs in the last year. Factors such as weak economic conditions and increasing commodity prices have been weighing heavy on the industry players’ results. However, there is one player that has been crafting strategies to come out of the situation in a healthy manner. Dean Foods , a food and beverage provider, has some mind blowing weapons in its arsenal that are enabling it to post great results. Its recent third quarter results brought hope to investors, giving them an opportunity to make money.

Analyzing the Performance…

Revenue for the period was down slightly, at $3.14 billion, mainly because of restructuring and spin offs. These measures, one of them being divestiture of Waukesha facility, have been taken in order to stay more focused on the core profitable business that is going through a difficult phase. Also, it has undertaken a number of initiatives to curb costs so that inflation can be fought easily without margins being affected. This led a whopping increase in earnings of 83% over last year, registering earnings per share of 33 cents.

Price plays a key role in customers’ buying habits. Hence, it is important to keep the price at optimum levels. Dean Foods has done that by passing on rising costs to customers at the right time. Also, it did not go for discounts in order to attain short term benefits against private players that offered slightly lower prices. The food retailer believes in containing its costs, through production efficiencies and cost cutting measures, rather than passing increases instantly to customers.

The Spin off – an Opportunity

Dean Foods spun off its WhiteWave operations last month and is now known as The WhiteWave Foods , a consumer packaged food and beverage provider. However, it played a major role in driving total both top line and bottom line growth. The segment performed marvelously with a 13% surge in revenue and 54% jump in operating income. All thanks to the marketing initiatives taken by the company and its focus on continuous product innovation.

WhiteWave’s performance was attributable to its plant-based food and beverage offerings which is gaining a lot of importance. Among the plant-based products, Silk has been the consumer favorite with Silk PureAlmond being the star. These products helped the category sales grow by 20% and looks like quite a growing segment.

Additionally, WhiteWave’s European business is also picking up pace with new products being the best driver of revenue. Healthy products such as almond drinks and yogurts lure customers as they become increasingly aware of the benefits of the products.

Yogurts and other organic products should be successful, as seen in case of General Mills that benefitted from its expansion into yogurts for its health conscious customers. Its successful addition of new flavors to the yogurts stirred consumer demand. This also helped in boosting earnings by 35% in its recent quarter. This makes WhiteWave’s prospects even brighter.

The Attractions…

The dairy retailer’s quarter was good from all angles. All the segments performed well with volume increase in each of them. Also, it has a lot of potential given its strategy of focusing on its core operations. It has been divesting its other businesses so that it can remain concentrated on its fresh dairy direct business. With the sale of WhiteWave it plans to sell its Morningstar operations also.

Moreover, this was done in order to generate cash that will help in reducing Dean Foods’ debt. This makes the company quite attractive. Also, it has been taking measures to cut costs which are already showing up on its bottom line. Its earnings are expected to grow further with the holiday season around the corner.

Good Days Await

Dean Foods is the largest dairy player in United States and has almost 40% of the market share. It is also making significant efforts to market its products in order to lure more customers without lowering its prices. Also, the company raised its outlook for the year and expects to deliver even better results through its strategies. The company also expects commodity prices to ease after the fourth quarter that will be beneficial going forward. With a continuous drive for offering new products, Dean Foods look increasingly attractive. Investors should definitely take notice.

This article was originally published as Here's a Performer for Your Portfolioon Fool.com

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