Who knew consumer staples could be so sexy?

Groceries and grain handling typically don't garner much attention, but this year Canadian companies in these areas are the best performers.

Since January 1, the Toronto Stock Exchange's consumer staples sub-index has posted a total return of 14.5 per cent. Compare that to the composite TSX, which put up a meagre total return of 1.3 per cent and materials stocks are down about 11 per cent.

Consumer staples look even better if you judge their performance starting at their 2012 low in February. Since then the total return has been about 18 per cent, while the gains since the TSX's low in May have been 6 per cent.

And relative to the ever-so-sexy real estate investment trusts, consumer staples still hold their own. Since January 1, REITs have posed a total return of 15 per cent, just edging out the staples.

Within the consumer staples index, a few stocks stand out. Alimentation Couche-Tard is up 56 per cent this year, while Viterra is up 50 per cent. Both gains stem from big takeovers: Couche-Tard bought Statoil Fuel & Retail ASA while Viterra was taken out by Glencore and a few others.

Beyond these, Saputo Inc. is up 11 per cent this year, as is Metro Inc.

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