Cramer: Troubling events threaten trusted stocks?

Once, these stocks were considered reliable and consistent. But Jim Cramer says business has changed and changed for the worse.

"Companies that sell in the center aisles of the supermarket, and also the freezer section, have become a growth wastelands," Cramer said.

That's worrisome because many individual investors hold these so-called consumer staples stocks believing they're relatively safe investments. But largely, they're safe because they've generated slow and steady growth.

If Cramer is right, the entire thesis behind these stocks may be called into question.

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Largely the "Mad Money" host drew the conclusion after closely listening to commentary from General Mills and ConAgra during their respective earnings calls, and then doing some proprietary research. What Cramer found may be unsettling for millions of investors.

"Over the last 12 months, the entire packaged food space has become incredibly promotional. They're trying to do whatever they can to drive higher volumes. But here's the thing: it's not working. The food companies keep attributing their lousy results to promotional ineffectiveness, meaning no matter how aggressively their products get put on sale, no matter how generous their coupons, it's simply not causing consumers to load up on their products."

Cramer said this kind of problem is about the worst problem a business can have because it signals no matter how aggressive a business may become, a rival is making a similarly aggressive counter-move.

In turn, Cramer fears the slow and steady growth these companies used to generate may no longer be possible.

While interest rates remain low, Cramer thinks these stocks can hold their own, due to the quest for yield. "The big packaged food plays still have their bountiful dividends, which is enough to protect most of these stocks in the current environment," he said.

But eventually, the environment will change, and if those companies still aren't showing any growth, not even slow growth, they could incur Wall Street's wrath. In turn, investors who hold these stocks, believing they're relatively safe, may be in for a rude awakening.

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However, all hope is not lost. As he noted on "Mad Money" earlier in the week, Cramer thinks if these companies can't grow organically, they can growth through acquisition. For example, Cramer believes Coca-Cola would be well served to acquire either Kraft or Mondelez and achieve growth be revitalizing the snack business. He also thinks both General Mills and Kellogg would be well served by acquiring an organic and natural foods maker such as Hain or WhiteWave, both of which are reporting strong growth.

"There's really only one choice when you're faced with terrible growth conditions and that's to take advantage of what's out there and make some acquisitions," Cramer said.

If you're a company, Cramer hopes you get the message. And if you're an individual investor, Cramer hopes that you'll watch developments closely and then weigh them as you decide which stocks to own.

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