"We are upgrading our rating on Campbell Soup (CPB, NYSE, around $75) from hold to buy," says Argus Research of New York City.
"In the last year, management has taken measures that have rejuvenated growth. Earnings for 1991 were 22 percent higher than they were in 1990. In our view, this is only the beginning. Momentum should be extended through new product offerings and by selected price increases. Owing to these factors, we look for another 22 percent earnings gain to $3.85 a share in 1992. The stock is a buy.
"ConAgra (CAG, NYSE, around $46) is a diversified company operating across the entire food chain, from selling fertilizer and crop protection chemicals to marketing consumer food products," says Timothy Kelly of PaineWebber.
"Sales could exceed $20 billion in fiscal 1992. We are forecasting long-term earnings growth of 14 percent plus. The company has performed like a growth stock since 1976. However, it appears to be valued by the stock market as a no-growth issue. But we rate the stock a buy."
"We think it is a mistake to tag food as a mature industry, particularly in the case of Heinz (HNZ, NYSE, around $40)," says The Investment Reporter, Toronto, Canada.
"With the popularity of microwaves, many prepared foods now offer more potential than ever. The company will also benefit from an increase in calorie- and health-conscious consumers, which it caters to through its Weight Watchers subsidiary. Meanwhile, Heinz continues to focus on product quality and cost-cutting. We view the stock as a buy."
"Ralston Purina (RAL, NYSE, around $49) has been under pressure lately due to concerns about slowing sales and earnings growth," says United & Babson Investment Report of Wellesley, Mass.
"Domestic sales from pet foods and baked goods are down, and disappointing third-quarter earnings have tempered full-year expectations. But Ralston's brand names enjoy strong recognition and leading market shares. A pickup in volume should lead to a resumption of good operating growth next year."