Towards the end of our last class before Thanksgiving, my Introduction to Business students switched over to a more relevant topic: what would be on their Thanksgiving Day menu. More importantly, the goal was to track the products on their dining table to the companies that make them.
This is a theme--investing in products you know--Peter Lynch discusses in his best selling books (One Up On Wall Street and Beating The Street). And strong, well-known brands provide pricing power and a key competitive moat for the companies Warren Buffet has preferred throughout his life (See Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life).
Moreover, the goal for this twenty-something college crowd was to build their awareness of the companies behind popular products and brands, making the connection between food on their table and a real firm with management, marketing and accounting functions. We did limit the task to publicly traded companies (private firms also make many staples of the holiday).
When asked to list their menus and activities, this group of college students broadly framed the holiday, revealing an event that impacts a variety of industries and the economy.
Here are the products this sample group of consumers plan to see on their holiday tables:
The Main Course:
Pilgrim's Pride (NASDAQ:PPC) or Hormel's (NYSE:HRL) Jennie-O brands were a recognized option for the main course; and Hormel foods was also a popular ham and meat tray choice; Kroger (NYSE:KR) was a prime retailer for finding the bird.
Some Standby's For All the Fixings and Desserts:
- Kraft (KFT) with its Stove Top Stuffing, Cool Whip, and Jello Pudding;
- Del Monte (NYSE:FDP) for canned and fresh fruits and vegetables;
- General Mills (NYSE:GIS) with its pie crusts, pastries and dough;
- Campell's (NYSE:CPB) is a key in favorites like green bean casserole;
- McCormick Spice Co. (NYSE:MKC) for gravies, spices, and flavors;
- Nestle' (OTCPK:NSRGY) for the perennial favorite Libby’s Pumpkin pie mix;
- Retailers Costco (NASDAQ:COST) and WalMart (NYSE:WMT) also have ready-made pies (selling at or near the cost of the raw ingredients).
Students also noted the holiday can include more than just food on the menu,
After Dinner Medicine:
Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) can supply the Pepto Bismal and a trip to Walgreens (WAG) may be in order for the overindulgent.
Students also saw the tradition as involving an entertainment menu that included movies from Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and, of course, football on CBS (NYSE:CBS) and Fox (NASDAQ:NWS); the event may even prompt some to buy a new state of the art television courtesy of Panasonic (PC) or Sony (NYSE:SNE).
Many students noted travel is on the menu, and in the Northwest that often means Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK), and rental cars when you arrive--Avis (NASDAQ:CAR), Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (NYSE:DTG).
Of course, the most important part of the fun project is to sample these products from the companies bringing us the holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!
Additional disclosure: All stocks mentioned owned in index and mutual funds; thanks to BA 151 JO1, Introduction to Business at University of Alaska, Southeast for their assistance; all proceeds go to their class snack fund.