Motley Fool’s “One American Brand” Could Double Within a Few Years


“Every decade or so, a brand is born in America that goes up like a moon shot and becomes a recognizable symbol all over the world… Brands like Levis… Coca-Cola… Harley-Davidson… Heinz… McDonalds… GE… Budweiser… Disney… Gillette… Pepsi… The Gap… IBM… Wal-Mart… Apple… Nike… Microsoft… Intel… Dell… UPS… Starbucks… FedEx… Amazon… eBay… and Google…”

That’s how this recent ad for the Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter opens — and I bet you already know what they say next, right?

Yep, they’ll tell you the name of this “one american brand” … just as soon as you subscribe to their newsletter.

Now, you may or may not want a subscription to Stock Advisor — I kind of like the Fool guys in general, though their buy and hold newsletters have had a tough year. And you can always check out the reviews of their newsletters on the Stock Gumshoe Reviews service.

But really, if all you want is the name of this company … you’re already in the right place. We can figger that one out for you, no problem.

First, a bit more of the tease, to whet your appetite:

“Here’s the sweet spot in all this for you: David and Tom are right now recommending ONE STOCK SET TO POWER INTO THE GLOBAL MAINSTREAM… one single investment you can hold in your account for a decade or more and make a killing…

“And you’ll get the name, stock symbol, and full details today.

“To tell you all about it, I have to go back 29 years to 1980. Back to the days of a fitful stock market… and an uncertain future. Sound familiar?

“That’s because the best way to invest TODAY is the same it was in 1980. In fact, the process of building real wealth has been much the same throughout all of the stock market’s history (just ask Warren Buffett).

“I’m talking about identifying a few unique growth businesses poised to dominate their mass markets. And scooping up shares and holding them until the cows come home!”

The ad goes on to list a few examples — Wal-Mart, Nike, and Starbucks — where getting in early on a phenomenal new brand would have allowed you to build a fortune, despite some ups and downs along the way.

“The ONE AMERICAN BRAND POISED TO POWER INTO THE GLOBAL MAINSTREAM I’m about to describe shows remarkable similarities to Wal-Mart, Nike, and Starbucks in their early days. In fact, this business is right now using the same powerful business secrets that launched these global giants.

“Here’s the story…

“This company has built a fantastic brand and is revolutionizing its industry. We project it will continue growing at a steady pace well into the next decade.

“You see, this stock IS A GREAT BUY AS WE SPEAK. More important, we believe it could turn into a ‘forever stock’… a stock like Coca-Cola or Apple or FedEx — a stock you and your family thank your lucky stars you found early on…

“And right now, it’s climbing — just like Wal-Mart did in the 1980s — so the earlier you get in, the better. Have a look…”

OK, now I’m starting to get a taste of deja vu … let’s see what the specific clues about this company are.

“That’s why the ONE AMERICAN BRAND recently made the revolutionary decision NOT to follow an industry practice of simply renting shelf space to the highest bidder. Instead, they’re getting the right products to the right customers by having regional managers decide which products get a test run in stores. Then, only if that product sells well and receives positive customer feedback, will the company make a long-term commitment to carry it…

“The ONE AMERICAN BRAND’S sales jumped 23% in 2004… In 2005, its sales jumped another 22%… In 2006 they jumped 19%. 18% in 2007… and 21% in 2008…

“In fact, for the last 5 fiscal years, the ONE AMERICAN BRAND POISED TO POWER INTO THE GLOBAL MAINSTREAM has produced average sales growth of more than 20%!”

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Hmmm … yep, I think I know where this is going. A few more specific clues?

“they’re flat out more profitable than the traditional giants in the industry”

“Their ‘new way of doing things’ has quickly turned them into the world’s largest retailer of the FASTEST-GROWING SEGMENT in their industry.”

“… the ONE AMERICAN BRAND has a small number of stores out there – big cities like San Diego may have only one or two, for instance. And its only international sites so far are in Canada and Great Britain.”

“The ONE AMERICAN BRAND won Fast Company magazine’s ‘Customers First’ award”

“THE ONE AMERICAN BRAND was just named to Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ for the 12th year in a row!”

OK, that’s got to be enough … right? Indeed, because it turns out that the “One American Brand” is the same exact company these folks have been teasing us about for years.

In fact, while they’re now teasing this as a stock that could double within a few years (it’s at $22.60 now), two years ago they were teasing the exact same stock, using an extremely similar ad, with the promise that it could triple again within a few years. Of course, back then shares were in the $40s.

I didn’t see this ad return to heavy rotation a few months ago, when the shares dipped all the way down to $8 and were perhaps a much more exciting bottom-fishing idea … but yes, they’re still teasing Whole Foods Markets (WFMI).

I first saw this ad back in December of 2006, and wrote about it back in March of 2007, when the New American Super Brand ad campaign was quite new and the Stock Gumshoe was still in diapers. At the time, the shares were pushing a 52-week low in the high-$40s, a price that WFMI shareholders would lust for today.

So this is clearly not a pick that the momentum traders or short term folks would have enjoyed much over the past two years — WFMI hit its high of about $80 way back in January of 2006, and it has been pretty steadily moving down ever since. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a bad pick now of course — it is a dominant retailer in its niche, it is still growing, and some folks argue that they have gotten past the worst of their malaise.

WFMI’s problems were brought on by a few things — the stock price just plain got too high because of wild growth expectations, they had FTC and integration problems with the Wild Oats merger that seem now finally to be getting worked through, and now they have the unenviable position of being a brand that’s widely seen as luxurious and expensive at a time when upper-middle class Americans (their core constituency) are feeling poor and scared.

Whole Foods was a massive success in the early 2000s, with huge sales growth and a building boom in new stores as they pioneered the mass market organic and natural foods space and, in some ways, revolutionized grocery shopping, but now lots of folks think they might have overreached and tried to grow too fast.

Then again, organic and natural foods, and high quality produce, are still in much more abundance at Whole Foods than at most (certainly not all) of their supermarket competitors … and they do have an identifiable brand and niche, and (depending on how you look at it) no direct competitors. So it’s tough to say what the next few years will bring.

I’m a little shocked at the rapid recovery of Whole Foods’ share price — the stock fell off a cliff in November, when all companies that tied together the words “expensive” and “consumer” were sold en masse — but now, with the stock up almost 200% from those recent lows, the shares are trading at a forward estimated PE of 28 and analysts are downgrading them (Morgan Stanley and UBS both issued a downgrades last week, they like the price much better in the low teens … Morningstar thinks it’s fairly valued at $15 but a better buy at $7.50). I still like the company, but I continue to find it hard to love the stock at this price — every time I write about them they seem expensive to me, and that hasn’t yet changed.

Then again, I sti