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18 Consumer Staples Stocks to Take the Edge Off Your Portfolio

Consumer staples stocks have largely fallen off the radar in recent months. Investors have been much more focused on growth as corporate earnings have pleasantly surprised, the U.S.-China trade spat showed signs of hope and the Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates steady.

Naturally, these more defensive companies haven't been especially red-hot of late. Consumer staples stocks have lagged the marketwide bounce that took shape beginning in late December. But with many other sectors starting to feel the weight of unwieldy gains, and with China trade talks yet again hitting turbulence, the sector might be ready to heat up again.

Steve Azoury, founder of financial planning firm Azoury Financial, says, "Consumer staples, the products that people use every day, will always be a big part of America's economy." "The trick," he adds, is identifying the companies that "will stay innovative and update their products and services to excite their customers, and thus the stock prices for investors."

Here are 18 of the best consumer staples stocks to invest in at the moment. While some of these are blue-chip stocks that should ring a bell, others are lesser-known companies that serve as the backbone of brands you may be more familiar with. Almost all of them provide varying levels of dividend income.

Altria Group

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Market value: $99.0 billion

Dividend yield: 6.0%

Cigarette smoking is a fading vice. Smoking cessation messaging appears to be effective. In general, people say they're more health-minded now than they've ever been.

And yet, there it is. Cigarette maker Altria Group's (MO, $52.94) operating income continues to be in a longer-term uptrend, from $7.6 billion in 2014 to $9.5 billion in 2018. It's not eye-opening, and it hasn't been perfectly consistent. But Altria is making progress.

There will always be headwinds, and in fact, two new stumbling blocks have surfaced of late. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently pledged to introduce legislation that would mandate a nationwide minimum smoking age of 21. While the senator's bill may or may not become law, it still points to a growing social concern that eventually could bite off a key demographic for the cigarette giant.

Separately, vaping (the use of electronic cigarettes that produce an inhalable vapor) is proving a compelling alternative to traditional tobacco usage, in that it at least seems to be a safer choice than inhaling smoke. But Altria has waded into the vaping arena itself. Late last year, it took on a one-third stake in e-cigarette outfit Juul. It enjoys a massive 75% e-cig market share, and it's a huge hit with the all-important 18-to-21-year-old crowd.

There will come a time when Altria can't justify supporting unhealthy

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