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Investing in food stocks

It is consistently in demand, but not consistently profitable.

Since food is a necessity, investing in food stocks can sound like a lucrative venture. But it involves some risks you need to consider.

What is a food stock?

Food stocks are stocks in any company involved in the production and transportation of food from the farm to your stomach. So you can invest in stocks related to any of the following industries:

  • Farming equipment
  • Farming
  • Food processing
  • Food packaging
  • Food distribution
  • Groceries
  • Supermarkets
  • Restaurants

These industries keep the world food supply running and are essential to everyday life. For instance, think about how your morning coffee ended up in your cup — it all started in the ground as a coffee bean.

Farmers need water, fertilizers and other resources to grow these beans. Beans then need to be processed, transported, roasted, brewed and finally poured into your cup. This process involves companies making farming equipment and chemicals, transportation services, roasters and employees at cafés around the world — just to name a few players.

Why invest in food stocks?

Because humans need food, some investors may find food stocks consistent and stable. A growing health-conscious population has also made vegan stocks, organic-food stocks and similar securities grow in popularity.

The Canadian food and beverage industry produced $117.8 billion worth of goods in 2019, making it Canada’s second largest manufacturing industry. It accounts for 17% of the country’s manufacturing sales and 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to Statista, the United States food market revenue in 2020 has amounted to nearly $924.39 million and it’s expected to grow annually by 1.8%.

But to invest in food stocks, you need to know what role these companies play in the food-production process and the risks involved.

Restaurant stocks vs. food stocks

Restaurant stocks are a subcategory of food stocks. These include stocks of full-service restaurants, fast-food establishments and snack bars. But they may be particularly volatile.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants were forced to temporarily close. Some didn’t come back. And the ones that did may face particular challenges such as smaller menus and capacity. In other words, many can’t operate at full force and that may hurt their bottom line.

Still, you can find restaurant stocks tied to large chains that operate throughout the country. Many restaurants are also benefiting from delivery services like DoorDash. In any case, you should carefully evaluate restaurant stocks and the companies behind them before you make a decision.

Risks of investing in food stocks

Because many industries and companies are involved in food production, it can run into several risks. For instance, weather can severely affect crop production. Political turmoil in a country can substantially impact the food and raw material they export.

Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how food is processed, handled and transported. The lockdowns and social distancing rules had harmful effects on the restaurant industry. In some states like New York, restaurants are only beginning to allow patrons inside at limited capacity after having been closed for months.

Grocery stocks are a different type of food stocks, encompassing supermarkets and other major stores where you can buy prepped food and food ingredients. While the pandemic hurt many restaurants, many grocery stores saw a spike in revenue.

For example, Costco stocks closed at $281 on February 24, 2020—just a couple of weeks before the World Health Organization elevated COVID-19 from a public health emergency to a full on pandemic. By November 23, Costco stock had risen 38% to $388. By November 30, it reached an all-time high of $391.77.

Regardless of what types of food stocks you invest in, make sure you carefully analyze your options as well as the risks they may face.

Food stocks

  • Nutrien Ltd. (TSX: NTR.TO, NYSE: NTR)
  • Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN)
  • Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
  • Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (NYSE: ADM)
  • Restaurant Brands International Inc. (TSX: QSR.TO)
  • MTY Food Group Inc. (TSX: MTY.TO)
  • McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE: MCD)
  • Starbucks Corporation (NasdaqGS: SBUX)
  • Yum China Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: YUMC)

What ETFs track the food category?

If you’re not into stock picking, you may consider investing in exchange traded funds (ETFs). These have become popular in recent years because they offer access to a diversified basket of stocks. Here are some food stock ETFs you may be interested in.

  • First Trust Nasdaq Food & Beverage ETF (NasdaqGS: FTXG)
  • Invesco Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (NYSEArca: PBJ)
  • WBI BullBear Rising Income 1000 ETF (NYSEArca: WBIE)
  • iShares Global Agriculture Index ETF Common Class (TSX: COW.TO)
  • Invesco DB Agriculture Fund (NYSEArca: DBA)
  • Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR Fund (NYSEArca: XLP)

The best Canadian ETFs

Compare trading platforms

To invest in food stocks, you need to open a brokerage account. Shop around to explore your options.

Name Product Available Asset Types Stock Fee Option Fee Account Fee ETF Transaction Cost Feature Table description
OFFER
Wealthsimple Trade
Stocks, ETFs
$0
N/A
$0
Free
Get 2 free stocks when you open a Wealthsimple Trade personal account and deposit and trade at least $150.
Pay no commissions when you trade Canadian stocks and ETFs with Wealthsimple Trade.
Interactive Brokers
Stocks, Bonds, Options, ETFs, Currencies, Futures
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
$1.50 min. per order
$0
Min. $1.00, Max. 0.5% of trade value
Extensive trading capabilities and global investment tracking.
Access market data 24 hours a day, six days a week and invest in global stocks, options, futures, currencies, bonds and funds from one single account.
BMO InvestorLine
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$9.95
$9.95 + $1.25 per options contract
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
$0 - $9.95
Buy and sell a select group of Canada’s most popular ETFs without paying commissions.
An easy-to-use online trading platform with access to research, tools, and the option to access InvestorLine adviceDirect for additional professional support.
Scotia iTRADE
Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities
$4.99-$9.99
$9.99 + $1.25 contract ($4.99 + $1.25 contract if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
$0
$9.99 ($4.99 if completed 150 trades or more a quarter)
Pay no annual account fees.
Buy, sell and trade ETFs, Equities, Options and more with competitive commissions.
CIBC Investor's Edge
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs
$4.95 - $6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 (+$1.25 per contract)
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $100/year
$6.95
$4.95 - $6.95 is applicable for online stock, ETF and option trades only. Pay $4.95 when you qualify as an Active Trader (trade 150+ times per quarter).
An intuitive and easy-to-use platform with access to a variety of tools that help you make smart decisions and trade with confidence.
Questrade
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs, International Equities, Precious Metals
$4.95-$9.95
$9.95 + $1 per contract
$0
Free
Get $50 in free trades when you fund your account with a minimum of $1,000.
Opt for self-directed investing and save on fees or get a pre-built portfolio and take some of the guesswork out.
OFFER
Qtrade Direct Investing
Stocks, Bonds, Options, Mutual Funds, ETFs, GICs
$6.95 - $8.75
$6.95 - $8.75 + $1.25 per contract
$0 if conditions met, otherwise $25/quarter
$0 - $8.75
Get up to 50 free trades. Be one of the first 100 new Qtrade clients to use the promo code 50FREETRADES and deposit a minimum of $10,000 (or top up to $15,000 to get $150 transfer fees waived). Valid until December 31, 2021.
Qtrade Direct Investing offers low trading commissions and an easy-to-use platform with access to powerful tools and a wide selection of investment options. Trade 100 ETFs free of charge and thousands more for $8.75 or lower.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Because food will be consistently in demand, food stocks may sound like stable investments. But they carry risks and require careful analysis. Before you start investing in food stocks, carefully compare stock trading platforms.

Frequently asked questions

Disclaimer: This information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of futures, stocks, ETFs, CFDs, options or any specific provider, service or offering. It should not be relied upon as investment advice or construed as providing recommendations of any kind. Futures, stocks, ETFs and options trading involves substantial risk of loss and therefore are not appropriate for all investors. Trading CFDs and forex on leverage comes with a higher risk of losing money rapidly. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before making any trades.

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