Makin' Bacon
By Stephanie D. Smith

(MONEY Magazine) – Face it, you can't escape Atkins. Some 32 million Americans are on some version of the high-protein, low-carb diet. But what we want to know is, can you profit from this mania?

The mad cow scare is hurting beef, but Smithfield Foods (SFD), the world's largest pork processor, has been a winner; its bacon sales are up 20%, and sales of snacking meats like dry sausage and pepperoni have doubled in the past year. (Note to self: Look into companies making stents to prop open clogged arteries.) All this has added heft to Smithfield's stock, which larded up 12% over the past year.

What to underweight? Unilever (UL) saw a 30% drop in sales at its Slim-Fast unit in the third quarter (the stock fell 5% in 2003), and attendance at Weight Watchers (WTW) was off 2.4% in the third quarter (WTW plunged 22% in 2003).

Might Atkins Nutritionals, the chain founded by the late Dr. Robert Atkins, suffer a similar fate come the next diet craze? Maybe. But no less than Goldman Sachs recently bought a big stake in the privately held firm. Hmm. Can an IPO be far behind? --STEPHANIE D. SMITH