America’s Big Appetite is Good for These Restaurant Stocks

According to a new report by BNY ConvergEx via Zero Hedge, America’s weight problem is not going away anytime soon.  By 2020, it is estimated that 75 percent of the U.S. population will be obese.  Currently, the U.S. has a bigger obesity problem than any other industrialized country in the world, with a 33.8 percent obesity rate.

The report notes several extreme dining options in America.  These include items such as Burger King’s Manhattan Whopper Bar which offers a Pizza Burger and IHOP’s cheesecake fluffy pancakes with whipped cream and powdered sugar.  BNY ConvergEx concludes, “Nearly 34 percent of United States citizens are obese, which is triple the rate of most of its peer countries. Notably, Americans both drink and smoke less than much of the industrialized world, making this problem all the more puzzling. The causes appear to be largely cultural, with low food costs playing a supporting role. Obesity in the U.S. is more prevalent along certain groups, but by some estimates an astounding 3 out of 4 Americans will be obese or overweight by 2020.”

The report coincides with a trading day that showed investors are still hungry for food-related stocks.  On Monday, shares of Buffalo Wild Wings, Inc. (NASDAQ:BWLD) reached a fresh all-time high of $94.76 and closed 7.25 percent higher.  Stephens analyst Will Slabaugh raised his 12-month price target from $100 to $110 per share, citing the chain will meet its target of growing profit 20 percent by 2012.  The company plans to capitalize on America’s obsession with food by opening more than 50 new locations this year, adding to its 847 sites in 47 U.S. states.  Shares of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE:YUM), McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) and Wendy’s (NYSE:WEN) also closed higher on Monday.  In fact, Yum! Brands reached a new all-time high of $71.47.  Last week, Oppenheimer initiated coverage on the company with a rating of Outperform and a price target of $82.

All hope is not lost on Americans and investors seeking healthy fast-food options.  Shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. (NYSE:CMG) gained more than 2 percent on Monday to reach a new all-time high of $425.58.  Founded in 1993, Chipotle is a fast-food restaurant that sources organic and local produce when practical and uses dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones.  The company started using natural raised pork in 2000 and switched to zero trans fat frying oil in 2004.  Chipotle currently has over 1,000 stores in the U.S. and plans on opening 155-165 new stores in fiscal year 2012.

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