Is Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO) the Best Large-Cap Alcohol Stock to Buy?

We recently compiled a list of the 10 Best Alcohol Stocks to Buy Now. Since Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO) is part of the list, we have discussed the stock in detail.

The Global Alcohol Industry:

In 2019, the global alcohol consumption, measured in liters of pure alcohol per person of 15 years of age or older, was 5.5 liters, which is a 4.7% relative decrease from 5.7 liters in 2010.  As we mentioned in our article – 20 Most Consumed Alcohols in the World – the global alcoholic beverages market size was valued at $1.62 trillion in 2021 and is projected to reach $2 trillion by 2031, with a CAGR of 2.2% during the forecast period.

The market is likely to be driven by the increasing global young-adult demographic, coupled with high disposable income and consumer demand for premium/super-premium products. Globally, beer drives the market for alcoholic beverages. Regionally, North America and Asia-Pacific are expected to dominate the market during the forecast period.

Resilience of the Beverage Alcohol Industry: 

As reported by Forbes, an analysis by Goldman Sachs has revealed that beer and spirits volumes in the American market have shown little correlation with economic growth. Their sales are more related to the general trends of alcohol consumption per capita rather than the general state of the economy. This is because beer and spirits are often seen as affordable luxuries or even staples.

Similarly, a Cambridge University study focused on business cycles and alcohol consumption across 24 countries over more than 50 years also found no symmetric reduction in beer and spirits consumption during recessions. The decreasing levels of average per capita income lead to very small changes in gross alcohol, wine, and beer consumption. In fact, the surge in unemployment during recessions could instead trigger an increase in the average alcohol intake. Moreover, it was also revealed that those who enjoy drinking tend to drink a lot more during the good times.

However, during times of economic difficulty, consumers tend to drink more at home as it is cheaper than hitting the bars. So while on-premise businesses suffer a decline in sales, liquor stores and online alcohol retailers tend to profit heavily.

Americans drank more alcohol also during the pandemic and this was reflected in the resultant imposts collected by the national kitty. Alcohol tax revenues collected by the U.S. Treasury Department rose by 8% in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021, compared to the previous year, and remained well above pre-pandemic levels.

Alcohol As a Lucrative Investment Asset: 

Rare whiskeys are incredible as investment vehicles. Aptly named ‘Liquid Gold’, this beloved liquor can preserve and even increase in value during economic instabilities, inflationary periods, and recessions. One simply cannot forget about the bottle of The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami that sold in auction for $2.7 million in November 2023, or the 1975 cask of Ardbeg single malt which was acquired by a private collector in Asia in 2022 for over $20 million, more than double the amount Glenmorangie paid for the entire Ardbeg distillery and all its stock in 1997.

The Rare Whisky 101 Apex 1000 Index tracks whiskeys that are highly sought after for collection. It has gained over 383% since 2013, against 286% gains by S&P’s famous benchmark of the top 500 companies for the same period. The RW Japanese 100 Index, on the other hand, includes 100 collector’s bottles from Japan, and since 2015, the index has seen gains of more than 396%. The index includes bottles like Ichiro’s Malt ‘Card’ Ace of Spades, Ace of Diamonds, and King of Hearts, among others.

Similarly, if we enter the realm of rare wines, the Liv-ex Burgundy 150 Index tracks the ten most recently physical vintages for 15 white and red Burgundy, including six Domaine Romanée Conti labels. The index has gained over 102% over the last five years, against around 88% gains made by the broader market during the same period.

Is Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO) the Best Large-Cap Alcohol Stock to Buy?

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To collect data for this article, we scanned Insider Monkey’s database of 920 hedge funds and picked the top 10 companies operating in the alcohol sector with the highest number of hedge fund investors. When two companies had the same number of hedge funds investing in them, we ranked them by the revenue of their last financial year instead. Following are the Best Alcohol Stocks to Buy According to Hedge Funds:

5. Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO)

Number of Hedge Fund Holders: 30

Diageo plc is a British multinational alcoholic beverage company with its headquarters in London, England. With over 200 brands sold in more than 180 countries, Diageo is the Largest Spirits Company in the World. The company’s portfolio has remarkable breadth across spirits and beer, with brands such as Guinness, Captain Morgan, Johnnie Walker, and Smirnoff etc. Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO) posted a revenue of over $21.58 billion in its last fiscal year ending June 30th 2023, up almost 15% from the previous year. However, the spirits giant has struggled during the first half of the current fiscal year due to an uneven consumer environment, fluctuating exchange rates, and inventory challenges in LAC. The group’s organic net sales declined by 0.6% in the first half of fiscal year 2024, while the organic operating margin also decreased by 167 basis points.

Despite the challenges, the company generated a strong free cash flow of $1.5 billion, up $0.5 billion YoY, and continues to focus on enhancing operational efficiencies and expanding its product portfolio. Moreover, DEO is a Great Alcohol Stock for Dividends, as the company stood up to its reputation as a very reliable dividend payer for decades and increased its dividend by 5%, maintaining its track record of dividend increases since fiscal year 2000.

Artisan Value Fund, an investment management company, stated the following regarding Diageo plc (NYSE:DEO) in its Q4 2023 investor letter:

“Diageo is a global leader in alcoholic beverages with an impressive collection of brands across spirits and beers. The company’s portfolio of over 200 brands provides diversification and allows it to meet consumer trends. A key focus for growth has been premiumization, and today, Diageo’s portfolio is now more heavily weighted toward premium segments. Shares are trading at multiyear trough multiples on fears of growth normalizing after a COVID-induced bounce and premiumization headwinds as some markets are showing consumers trading down to value alternatives. In the near term, margin expansion will likely be constrained, but the company generates meaningful free cash flow and returns it to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. Over the past five years, Diageo generated £12 billion FCF and returned £16 billion to shareholders. Although spirits are more cyclical than other staples, the company’s growth prospects are better long term, and we believe the current situation has provided us an attractive investment opportunity.”

DEO had 30 hedge fund holders in Q1 of 2024, with Orbis Investment Management holding the largest stake of 1.54 million shares valued at around $229.2 million.

Overall, DEO ranks 5th on our list of the best alcohol stocks to buy. You can visit 10 Best Alcohol Stocks to Buy to see other alcohol stocks that are on hedge funds’ radar. While we acknowledge the potential of DEO as an investment, our conviction lies in the belief that AI stocks hold greater promise for delivering higher returns, and doing so within a shorter timeframe. If you are looking for an AI stock that is more promising than DEO but that trades at less than 5 times its earnings, check out our report about the cheapest AI stock.

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Disclosure: None. This article is originally published at Insider Monkey.