News that Canada is imposing retaliatory tariffs on nearly $13 billion of U.S. goods is expected to have a significant impact on The Hershey Co. and TreeHouse Foods, Inc., according to a July 2 research report from Credit Suisse.
The research firm said several of the products the companies produce, including confectionery products, salad dressing and cucumbers, all made the list of products that will be subject to a 10% import tariff. Additionally, companies that operate manufacturing facilities in Canada are expected to absorb higher prices for imported U.S. commodities into their Canadian plants, Credit Suisse said.
“Hershey will pay import tariffs on the majority of candy it sells in Canada because it exports the vast majority of products it sells there,” Robert Moskow, research analyst with Credit Suisse, wrote in the July 2 report. “TreeHouse will pay import tariffs on some products and have to contend with higher commodity costs. As a company with very low operating margins, small changes in costs can have an outsized impact on TreeHouse’s earnings results. We expect retailers and food manufacturers to try to raise prices to consumers to offset the costs. But this will prove challenging in today’s highly competitive pricing environment.”
Mr. Moskow said Credit Suisse expects a 2.4% headwind to earnings per share for Hershey and a 3.8% headwind for TreeHouse Foods. In the case of Hershey, he said forward estimates likely will be lowered as the company contends with declining pricing power and a shift in consumer behavior to more convenient, less impulse-driven shopping methods. The concern with TreeHouse, he said, is the expectation that the company will struggle to raise pricing enough to fully offset its higher costs in the private label industry.
The impact of the Canadian import tariff is expected to be less severe for several other packaged foods companies that Credit Suisse covers, including Kraft Heinz Co. and J.M. Smucker Co. Credit Suisse has projected an e.p.s. impact of less than 1% for Kraft.
“Smucker described the impact as immaterial and says it incorporated the potential headwind from Canada in the low end of its guidance for fiscal 2019 earlier this month,” Mr. Moskow said. “Kraft Heinz’s ketchup brand experienced public relations problems when the company closed its Canadian ketchup manufacturing plant, but its sales trends appear to have improved since then.”