Core Brands And Healthy Portfolio Drive Growth For Coca-Cola

by Trefis Team
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The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) had a solid start to 2018, posting results that beat consensus estimates on both revenues and earnings. As has been the case in recent quarters, the refranchising efforts were a 26% headwind to the revenues, which declined by 16%. On the other hand, organic revenue growth was 5%, driven more by volume growth than price growth, reversing the trend seen recently. Comparable operating margin (non-GAAP) expanded 600 basis points, driven by divestitures of lower-margin bottling businesses and the company’s ongoing productivity efforts, helping the EPS to grow to 47 cents, from 43 cents in the corresponding quarter of last year. In a welcome change for the company, its Diet Coke brand returned to volume growth in North America. Moreover, the foundation of the company remains strong, reflected in Trademark Coca-Cola posting a healthy 4% volume growth globally, fueled by 3% growth in brand Coca-Cola and double-digit growth in Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

We have a $49 price estimate for Coca-Cola, which is higher than the current market price. The charts have been made using our new, interactive platform. The various driver assumptions can be modified by clicking here, to gauge their impact on the earnings and price per share metric.

Key Factors That Will Impact Results Going Forward 

1. Success of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has been launched in 20 markets, with a reformulated product, evolved marketing, and new packaging. The brand witnessed positive results, reflected in the double-digit volume and revenue growth. This brand along with others, such as its water portfolio, ready-to-drink-tea and coffee, etc. are expected to help Coca-Cola deliver 4% organic revenue growth in FY 2018.

2. Diet Coke Revamp: The success of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar prompted the company to reformulate a number of other brands, as it clambers to keep up to pace with changing consumer preferences. One such brand has been Diet Coke, which had been plagued with declining volumes recently. To arrest this decline, Coca-Cola decided to revamp Diet Coke. While the original Diet Coke remains, four new flavors of it – Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange, and Twisted Mango – have been introduced, keeping the millennial generation in mind. The positive customer response has been reflected in the return to volume growth in North America, for the first time since 2010.

3. Potential of Global Ready-To-Drink Tea: The global ready-to-drink tea category represents $60 billion in retail value and is forecast to continue its solid growth as consumers look for more natural beverage choices that can deliver functional benefits. KO’s tea portfolio has grown steadily over the past few years, driven by Fuze Tea, Ayataka, and Gold Peak. As of the end of FY 2017, Fuze Tea had been launched in almost 50 countries. In the first quarter, the brand was launched across Europe (37 countries), which should ensure steady growth for the brand in the coming quarters.

4. Topo Chico U.S. Rights Acquisition: Last October, KO acquired the U.S. rights to Topo Chico, a premium sparkling mineral water brand. By the end of the first quarter, the first full quarter of ownership, KO increased distribution coverage within the convenience retail channel by 25%. Consequently, the brand grew its U.S. retail value over 30% during the quarter and gained value share in the fast-growing sparkling water category.

5. U.K. Sugar Tax: The sugar tax came into effect on April 6 in the U.K., and hence, the impact of this change will be seen only in the forthcoming quarters. The tax is levied on drinks having more than 5g of sugar per 100ml, while a higher levy is imposed on drinks with 8g per 100ml or more. Keeping this in mind, the company has reformulated a number of drinks to reduce the sugar content. KO has also put an increased focus on brands such as Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and the newly revamped Diet Coke, ensuring that two-thirds of the total portfolio will not necessitate a need for the payment of the sugar tax. The company has also put a greater emphasis on smaller packaging.

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