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Shares of The J.M. Smucker Co. (SJM - Analyst Report) – a food & beverage company - hit a new 52-week high of $97.75 on Mar 8, after reporting solid fiscal third quarter results on Feb 15. This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company beat its previous 52-week high of $95.35 attained on Feb 27, and has generated a return of approximately 9.1% since Dec 31, 2012. The company’s long-term estimated EPS growth rate is 8.93%. Average volume of shares traded over the last three months came in at approximately 811K.

Solid Third Quarter Performance

Smucker posted strong fiscal third quarter results beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate for both revenue and earnings. Moreover, Smucker has surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the last three out of four quarters, while matching the same in one quarter, resulting in an average surprise of 11.8%.

The company’s continued focus on its brands through innovations and promotional offerings, strategic acquisitions, improving volumes of K-cups, and effective utilization of cash through buybacks drove the quarter.

The company’s earnings of $1.47 per share jumped approximately 20% year over year in the third quarter, primarily driven by increased sales growth and lower share count due to share buybacks. Net sales growth of 6% was driven by favorable sales mix and benefits from the acquisition of Sara Lee Corporation’s North American foodservice coffee and hot beverage business in January last year. Volume gains in the higher priced K-Cups coffee brand and peanut butter business also fueled growth.

In addition, the company managed to offset higher peanut costs in the quarter by acquisition gains, favorable sales mix and lower green coffee costs. This was also reflected in higher gross and operating margins.

Smucker has also raised the lower end of its adjusted earnings guidance to a range of $5.17 to $5.22 per share from 5.12 to $5.22 per share announced previously.

Other Stocks to Consider

Stocks in the food industry that are portraying strong upward trend in the bourses are Flower Foods Inc (FLO - Snapshot Report), Conagra Foods Inc (CAG - Analyst Report) and J&J Snack Foods Corp (JJSF - Snapshot Report) , each of them carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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