A Zero-Guilt Way to Make Holiday-Week Gains

I love the Fourth of July. In fact, my two favorite childhood holidays were Christmas and the Fourth of July.

Christmas, of course, meant presents. But believe it or not, the Fourth of July was even better.

Like many Americans, our family shot off fireworks and enjoyed an afternoon of swimming at a local lake. More importantly for me, it also meant a day off from the grueling farm work that my father expected of his sons.

Our family had another Fourth of July tradition that might surprise you: a big red-and-white bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

For my mother, I'm sure it wasn't easy being a farmer's wife with young children. So, I used to think she was just taking a break from cooking.

But I was surprised to learn as an adult that Kentucky Fried Chicken is considered a special holiday treat in Japan.

KFC, as we call it now, is so popular in Japan that big party buckets of chicken need to be ordered weeks, even months, in advance of major holidays -- especially Christmas.

Image credit: JapanToday.com

Christmas isn't a national holiday in Japan because only 1% of Japanese are Christian. But a bucket of "Christmas Chicken" is an extremely popular dish on Dec. 25.

Thanks to one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever -- "kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii," or Kentucky for Christmas -- eating KFC chicken has become a national holiday custom.

Japan isn't the only Asian country that loves KFC.

Parent company Yum! Brands (YUM) -- which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell -- gets more than half its revenue outside the United States. KFC has over 4,000 stores in Asia.

Yum! Brands isn't the only American restaurant company doing big business in Asia.

  • Dunkin Brands Group (DNKN): Dunkin' Donuts operates in more than 30 countries, including China, Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. (Weird factoid: You can get a kimchi donut in Korea!)
  • Burger King Worldwide (BKH): How important is Asia to Burger King? The King pulled in $13.6 billion of Asia revenues in the last quarter of 2013.
  • Starbucks (SBUX): Most Asians prefer tea to coffees, but Starbucks is an affordable luxury for many Asians. The Starbucks stores I see are usually full of well-heeled Asian customers, expats and tourists. China, for example, has over 1,000 Starbucks stores and is on pace to become the company's second largest market, second only to the U.S.
  • Domino's Pizza (DPZ): There are over 13,000 Domino's stores in over 70 countries, but get this: 600 of them are in India alone! Little scooters with rear-mounted Dominos hot boxes zip all around Asia, delivering fresh, hot Domino's pizza.
  • McDonald's (MCD) recently opened its first Golden Arches in Vietnam and now operates in more than 100 countries around the world.

I'm not suggesting that you rush out and buy any of the above stocks tomorrow morning. As always, timing is everything, so I recommend that you wait for my buy signal.

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But I'll tell you, I think there can be big money to be made by investing in companies that are profiting from the Asian love affair with American foods.

As for the Fourth of July, I will be enjoying a day of sunshine, family, fireworks and BBQ on Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana. I hope that, however you celebrate, you'll have as much fun as I know I will.

Best wishes,
Tony Sagami

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Posted 07-03-2014 12:21 PM by Tony Sagami
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