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Hain Celestial's Organic Act

By Alyce Lomax
October 31, 2003
What a rush. Hain Celestial (Nasdaq: HAIN) shares got a kick of caffeine Thursday after the company reported profits that zoomed 40% higher in its fiscal first quarter.

Despite the crack, the company isn't really known for caffeine at all. It makes the well-known herbal tea line Celestial Seasonings, and most of those flavors may lack the jolt but appeal to those who dig healthy fare. Its selection of natural foods include Hain Pure Foods, Westsoy, Rice Dream and Soy Dream, and Health Valley. Its Terra Chips were apparently a snack sensation, showing a 13% rise in sales.

Interesting plans include a product line to appeal to the growing ranks of low-carb dieters, CarbFit, which will get prominent promotional display with Michelob's low-carb beer in stores in November. And for those who pass on consumption of our animal friends, the company's got a range of soy protein meat alternatives, too.

This slew of products -- featured heavily in such stores as Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFMI) and Wild Oats (Nasdaq: OATS), and some of them, notably Celestial Seasonings, in conventional grocery stores as well -- appeals to the growing population of folks who like to eat natural and organic.

Hain Celestial has competition, however, as a few companies get into the healthy and organic act -- among them Unilever (NYSE: UN), General Mills (NYSE: GIS), Kellogg (NYSE: K), and Dean Foods (NYSE: DF). Just what other food companies jumping on the healthy food bandwagon will have in store remains to be seen.

Hain Celestial reported earnings of 19 cents per share, or $6.5 million, beating Wall Street estimates that called for per-share earnings of 18 cents. The company stands by its own earnings guidance of $0.95-$1.03 a share in fiscal 2004, which was discussed here in early September after it lowered its outlook.

So far, things are looking pretty healthy at Hain Celestial. Investors who might have bought the stock as it hovered near its 52-week low of $11.60 had a treat for their afternoon tea Thursday afternoon. The shares hit a new 52-week high of $22.48 before ending the day up about 10%, at $21.91.

Alyce Lomax welcomes your feedback at
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