When we think of the basics of life needed to sustain us -- and no, I'm not talking about your Fitbit (FIT) or iPhone -- water and food are the first things that often come to mind. It should not be all that surprising that some of the companies with the longest streaks of increasing their dividends are related to water, liquids and food. Some are well-known brands, while others have flown under the radar for years.
In the food/beverage category, there are three names that have grown their dividends for at least 50 consecutive years. The first is arguably the most well-known brand in history, Coca-Cola (KO) ; it has a 55-year streak of increasing its dividend, which currently yields 3.3%. Over the past five years, the dividend has grown at a solid 8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), with the most recent increase coming in March, when the quarterly payout was hiked to 37 cents from 35 cents.
Lancaster Colony (LANC) , which is not well-known, is in the specialty foods business and is the maker of the Marzetti salad dressing line, among a long list of products. The company has increased its dividend 54 consecutive years, with the current payout yielding 1.8%. Lancaster Colony has a 9% CAGR in dividends over the past five years and raised the quarterly payout 10% to 55 cents in December.
Last but not least in food/beverage is Hormel (HRL) , which is probably best known for Spam and chili, although it has dozens of products. Hormel currently has a 51-year streak of dividend increases, yields 2% and has an 18% five-year CAGR in dividends.
On the water side are two utilities, American States Water (AWR) and California Water Services (CWT) . American States, which serves 10 counties in California, has a 62-year streak of increasing dividends, currently yields 2.1% and has a 12% five-year CAGR in dividends. California Water Services, which serves customers in California, Washington, New Mexico and Hawaii, just hit the 50-year mark in dividend hikes early in 2017. Currently yielding 2.1%, CWT has a small 2% CAGR, but that's more than enough to keep the streak alive.Perhaps not surprisingly, it is also a water utility that may hold the record for consecutive years of paying dividends. Although it does not have a 50-year streak of increases (it is currently at 19 consecutive years), York Water ( YORW) , which serves customers in Pennsylvania and currently yields 2%, has paid a dividend since 1816, or 201 consecutive years. For perspective, consider that in 1816 James Madison was finishing up his second term as president and James Monroe was elected our fifth president. Now, that's a streak!