But “the whole group is facing some major problems that we haven’t had to deal with for ages, issues of relevance, capital returns [and] rotations that have made the stocks seem a lot less attractive,” the “Mad Money” host said.
Historically, as the economy expands, consumer packaged goods tend to fall out of favor among investors.
The “hedge fund playbook” sheds low-growth consumer names for higher-growth stocks of companies that directly benefit from a improving economic layout, Cramer said.
“These managers want the kind of growth that’s much easier to find in tractors … [and] aerospace assembly … [than in] a bottle of shampoo or a package of diapers,” he explained.
Cramer acknowledged that there are plenty of reasonable arguments against investing in consumer stocks. Some worry that their dividends won’t offset the costs of rising interest rates. Others wonder what use they will be if the economy continues to strengthen.
Others still point to earnings reports like Kimberly-Clark’s, in which the company talked about the benefits of an improving global economy, rising inflation and a weakening dollar, but still only delivered 1 percent growth.
“However, the fact remains that none of these stocks have lost their bond market equivalent status, and if you can find the ones with the right balance of capital allocation toward dividends and buybacks, you should be able to do pretty well long-term,” Cramer said.
“If you need income, the consumer packaged goods stocks are a much better deal than bonds, at least for the moment,” he added.
But while Cramer supported the long-term strategy of investing in consumer goods stocks, he couldn’t pound the table on them for all investors for five reasons:
- Growth constraints from e-commerce vendors like Amazon
- Frugal millennial buyers seeking better deals in the likes of Walmart, Costco and the dollar stores
- The negative effects of declining U.S. birth rates, which affect few other businesses
- A rising interest rate environment’s stifling effect on their yields
- Slower innovation than health care or technology companies
One might wonder why investors would choose consumer goods stocks given all of these potential headwinds, Cramer said.
“I think it’s simple: if you’re running a diversified portfolio, as everyone should be, and you’re looking for a sustainable, long-term source of income, then these stocks are absolutely worth looking at,” he argued. “Worst case, they go lower [and] give you higher yields.”
The “Mad Money” host invoked Procter & Gamble’s turnaround plan: understanding the rise of new shopping outlets with competitive pricing and direct-to-consumer channels, the company has recognized the need to grow its cash flow and continue rewarding shareholders.
With the addition of activist investor Nelson Peltz to its board, Procter & Gamble could undergo a huge margin improvement, get a better grip on its cost structure and re-introduce its products to a new group of consumers, Cramer said.
“In other words, know thyself,” the “Mad Money” host concluded. “Are you older and saving up for retirement? Then you want steady dividend increases, exactly like you’ll probably get from both Procter and Kimberly. But if you simply want stocks that are going up, FANG-like, then forget about this group, at least for now.”