When it comes to the chicken sandwich war between Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, investors should buy the hand that feeds them both: Tyson Foods.
That's CNBC's Jim Cramer's take on the viral clash on Twitter in recent weeks where users pit the two fast food chains against one another. Both restaurants turned to the social media platform to promote their respective sandwiches, which resulted in millions of free advertisement for both companies.
"When you see all these people lined up outside Popeye's waiting for a bite of their terrific new chicken sandwich, you should buy the biggest arms dealer in chicken world ... Tyson Foods," the "Mad Money" host said. "Whether Chick-fil-A or Popeyes wins the chicken wars, Tyson will always come out ahead."
Popeyes, which is a subsidiary of the publicly traded Restaurant Brands International, rolled out the first chicken sandwich on its menu nationwide earlier this month. Many of its locations had sold out of both its mild and spicy chicken sandwiches in recent weeks due to the frenzy of customers looking to get their hands on one.
Cramer, however, doesn't recommend buying shares of its parent company if investors expect to get a noticeable piece of the profit bump. Popeyes accounts for 12% of the holding company's store base and potentially 7% of its earnings, the host said. Restaurant Brands also owns Canadian coffee franchise Tim Horton's and the aptly-named burger chain Burger King, which makes up most of the conglomerate's revenues.
Chick-fil-A is privately held, so the public won't be able to get in on the action of the highest-selling chicken chain in the U.S.
"Maybe the real takeaway here is that people just love chicken, and if that's the case, you don't need to invest in the chicken war directly, you need to buy an arms dealer," Cramer said.
The chicken business in Tyson Foods, one of the largest producers of poultry, beef and pork, makes up 30% of sales, he added. The stock has seen its share of ups and downs in recent years, in the wake of higher labor and transportation costs, but the share price has run more than 70% in 2019. The stock closed Monday's session above $91 a piece.
The company has put together a series of positive quarters and plans to launch its own plant-based beef alternative, which could compete with faux-meat producers Beyond Meat and Impossible, Cramer said. Tyson still has to face headwinds in the prolonged U.S.-China trade war, but the great majority of the food giant's sales are domestic, he added.
"Best of all, even after its magnificent rebound, the stock is still cheap" trading at 13-times 2020 earnings estimates, Cramer said.