Keep Your Portfolio Fresh With Loblaw Companies Limited

Branching out and investing in multiple areas of the economy is a key factor in diversifying a portfolio. The retail sector–more specifically the food retail sector–is often overlooked by many investors who either see that area of the economy as boring or lacking any real growth.

Loblaw Companies Limited (TSX:L) is the largest grocer and pharmacy operator in the country, and it’s anything but boring and lacking growth. Loblaw is not only the country’s biggest and most well-known grocer, but it’s also the largest pharmacy store chain in the country; it operates another of the most well-known brands in the country: Shoppers Drug Mart.

In all, Loblaw has an impressive portfolio of some 20 brands and labels that operate across different regions of the country. This ranges from grocery stores to pharmacies to general merchandise providers and home goods, and even spans into offering financial services through agreements with banks.

Here’s a look at why you really should consider adding Loblaw to your portfolio if you haven’t already.

Loblaw has immense brand power

There’s something unique and magnetic about the products Loblaw sells. Loblaw is not just another grocer in the regard that it just stocks items on shelves to sell. The company takes this practice one step further by identifying and marketing products that are not sold anywhere else, or by taking an existing product and modifying it, either in presentation, contents, or branding, making it a superb product.

The key point is that Loblaw is able to take a good product and make it even better. The company’s President’s Choice (PC) brand is well known for this practice, and there are literally thousands, if not millions, of products falling under this brand, such as bacon-infused maple syrup, hummus-flavoured potato chips, or the world renown decadent chocolate chip cookie.

The sheer genius behind this model even extends into the company’s Shoppers pharmacy stores. Shoppers stores are typically much smaller than the Loblaw supermarkets and target different customers; they’re also often in areas where a Loblaw store is not nearby. Loblaw placed PC products on the shelves of Shoppers locations, which only fueled the brand to become even more popular.

Loblaw and the growing defensive moat

One thing that really impresses me is how Loblaw has grown over the past decade from the food segment to clothing, pharmacy, general merchandise, and even financial services. The company has effectively cast a wide net of essential products and services that we as consumers are all too happy to purchase.

That net is about to get even bigger.

Earlier this month Loblaw announced an agreement to acquire QHR Corporation in a deal reportedly worth $170 million. QHR is a market leader in the realm of electronic medical records (EMR) in Canada.

Loblaw has stated that QHR will be a distinct business within the Shoppers Drug Mart division of the company.

As the population ages, healthcare spending is set to increase over the next few decades, and EMR platforms like the one that QHR offers could be a way to reduce costs and increase efficiency. QHR’s product offering is geared towards enhancing communications, medical records management, and virtual care tool suites in the medical field.

Over time, this new business could provide a lucrative stream of revenue for Loblaw and widen that net of products and services even more.

In my opinion, Loblaw remains a strong option for investors who are looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly over the long term.

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Fool contributor Demetris Afxentiou has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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