For a 13th year running, Barclays’s Andrew Lazar is the buy side’s preferred U.S. food researcher. The All-America Research Team Hall of Famer’s commanding hold on the top spot prompts one client to suggest that his name be added to the sector title, “since it’s a given that he’s in first place each year.” This fan observes that Lazar is “excellent at seeing a company within the broader framework of the category, as opposed to in isolation, and identifying what does or doesn’t drive stocks. He also knows everyone in the industry and is well respected by the companies.” The 49-year-old analyst made a contrarian move last June when he restated his three-year-old recommendation that investors overweight Omaha, Nebraska–based ConAgra Foods. Shares of the packaged and processed foods provider — whose household brands include Blue Bonnet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice and Reddi-wip — had tumbled 12.7 percent for that year to date, compared with the 5.9 percent gain posted by U.S. food names overall. Moreover, the company reported that for the fiscal year through May 2014, although net sales increased 14.8 percent, to $17.7 billion, net income had slumped 60.8 percent, to $303.1 million. While acknowledging concerns regarding ConAgra’s fundamentals, Lazar argued that a deeply discounted valuation coupled with management’s ability to adjust strategy created space for investors to profit. Good call: A year after he reiterated his overweight rating on the name, ConAgra announced that it would sell its underperforming private brands operations, under pressure from New York–based activist hedge fund Jana Partners, and ultimately added two of Jana’s nominees to its board of directors. By the middle of last month, the stock had leaped 50.9 percent, to $42.22, besting its peers by 40.3 percentage points.