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Here's why one of these stalwarts edges out the other


This article refers to the overall multinational beverage manufacturer, distributor, and marketer. To view Coca-Cola bottlers, see Coca-Cola (disambiguation)

The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) is the world’s largest manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of non-alcoholic beverage concentrates and syrups. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, KO sells concentrated forms of its beverages to bottlers who then produce, package, and sell the finished products to retailers. The Coca-Cola Company operates in over 200 countries and sells more than 400 different brands that produce over 3000 different products, including the famous Coca-Cola and Sprite lines of soft drinks. [1]

Growing consumer preference for healthier drinks and increasingly saturated markets has resulted in slowing growth rates for sales of carbonated soft drinks (abbreviated as CSD), which constitutes 78% of KO’s sales. [2] KO’s profits are also vulnerable to the volatile costs for the raw materials used to make drinks - the corn syrup used as a sweetener, the aluminum used in cans, and the plastic used in bottles. Furthermore, decreased consumer spending in Coke's large North American market compounds the challenge of rising costs and a weak economic environment.[3] Finally, Coca-Cola earns approximately 75% of revenue from international sales, exposing it to currency fluctuations, which are particularly adverse with a stronger U.S. Dollar (USD). [4]

Despite these challenges, Coca-Cola has remained profitable. Though the non-CSD market is growing quickly, the traditional CSD market is still large in terms of both revenues and volume and highly lucrative. The size and variety of KO’s offerings in the CSD category, coupled with the unparalleled brand equity of the Coca-Cola trademark, has allowed KO to maintain its share of this important market. KO has also responded to consumers’ changing tastes with new, non-CSD product launches and acquisitions such as that of Glaceau[5]. Strong international growth has also more than offset a weak domestic market.


The Coca-Cola Company produces over 400 brands of non-alcoholic beverages, including carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, such as ready-to-drink juices, coffee drinks, tea and bottled water. Under these 400+ brands, there are more than 3,000 different beverage products. [6] Most of KO's beverage portfolio is composed of CSD, though the company has been expanding into the non-CSD category in response to a shift in consumer demand and a greater emphasis on healthy options.

Non-carbonated Soft Drinks

The remaining 23% of KO's total volume is composed of non-carbonated soft drinks, which include a variety of beverages such a fruit juices, waters, sports drinks, and teas. This non-CSD segment has been showing higher growth rates than the CSD category, resulting from higher demand for healthy alternatives to traditional CSD. [7]

The Coca-Cola Company's major non-CSD offerings (>$1 billion in annual sales) include:

  • Dasani bottled water
  • Glaceau VitaminWater
  • POWERade sports drinks
  • Minute Maid and Minute Maid To Go juices
  • Aquarius sports drinks
  • Nestea
  • Sokenbicha
  • Odwalla

Key Trends & Forces

New Aversion to Soda Threatens Main Business

77% of the Coca Cola Company's products are classified as carbonated soft drinks, making it particularly sensitive to changes in demand for CSD. [8]

  • Consumer demand for CSD has been negatively affected by concerns about health and wellness. This is true across most of KO's markets.
  • There has been an increase in the number of regulations regarding CSDs in the United States in response to the heightened desire for healthy food consumption.
    • Many states' public school systems banned the sale of soft drinks on their campuses. [9]
    • The Center for Science and Public Interest proposed that a warning label be placed on all beverages containing more than 13g of sugar per 12-oz serving. Although never enacted, this proposal would gave affect all non-diet, full calorie drinks produced by KO. [10]
  • These factors have driven a shift in consumption away from CSD to healthier alternatives, such as tea, juices, and water.
  • Within the CSD segment consumers have been moving away from sugared drinks, opting instead for diet beverages, which do not generally contain any sugar or calories.

Though KO has been somewhat slow to respond to this shift in consumer preferences, it has recently begun to increase its development of both diet CSD and non-CSD beverages. KO is faced with the task of balancing the risk of new innovations with the low growth rates of established brands, a predicament for manufactures throughout the beverage industry.

Commodity Cost Fluctuations Affect Margins

The Coca-Cola Company’s profitability can be affected both directly and indirectly by the costs of various production inputs. KO itself is responsible for purchasing the raw materials used to make its concentrates and syrups. Variations in the prices for these goods can affect the company’s total cost of production as well as its profit margins. Changes in the production costs of bottlers can also impact KO’s profitability, though in a more indirect way. If the raw materials necessary for bottling become more expensive, the bottler may be forced to drastically raise prices to compensate. Such a price increase would likely hurt KO and provide a possible incentive for consumers to switch to other companies’ beverages. Aluminum, corn, and PET resin are three examples of input costs that could have significant bearing on the Coca-Cola Company’s profit margins. nj

Dollar Affects International Performance

Another trend affecting Coca-Cola is the relative strength of the U.S. Dollar (USD) . Although the company is based in the US, KO derives about 75% of its operating income from outside United States. Because of this, the company is very sensitive to the strength of the dollar. As foreign currencies weaken relative to the dollar, goods sold in foreign markets are suddenly worth fewer dollars back in the US, lowering earnings. Thus, if the dollar strengthens, it has a negative effect on KO's earnings.

KO has broad exposure to foreign currencies and actively hedges a large portion of these to avoid wide swings in earnings from currency fluctuations. Although this hedging insulates it from the potential downside of a strengthening dollar, it also limits larger gains from drastic downswings in the dollar's value.

Domestic Competition and Market Share

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U.S. non-alcoholic beverage market share, by volume

Coca-Cola’s main competitors in the U.S. are Pepsico (PEP) and Cadbury Schweppes (CSG). There are many smaller beverage companies competing domestically, and marketers of non-CSD brands sometimes possess significant shares of their specific sectors. Examples include Red Bull GmbH's Red Bull energy drink, Monster energy drink, produced by Hansen Natural (HANS), and Ferolito, Vultaggio & Son's Arizona iced tea.

Coke vs. Pepsi

PepsiCo is the second-largest company in the domestic non-alcoholic beverage industry. PEP counts among its brands some very well known trademarks, most notably:

  • Pepsi
  • Mountain Dew
  • Gatorade
  • Aquafina
  • Tropicana
  • Lipton

For decades now, Coke and Pepsi have battled for the title of tastiest soda producer, but which company will add the best flavor to your investment portfolio? Although both companies share powerful brand names and global franchises, there are two important distinctions between Pepsico and Coca-Cola that any investor should consider before choosing between these comestible titans:

Global Footprint

When it comes to international presence, Coca-Cola easily trumps Pepsico. Coca-Cola's larger global footprint exposes it more to international economic forces, particularly in the developing world. While this led to strong growth through much of the decade, weakness in emerging market economies could easily slow this momentum. Furthermore, because Coke generates so much of its revenue abroad, it stands to suffer from the continuing strengthening of the dollar as sales denominated in foreign currencies are suddenly worth less money back in the US. At the same time, Pepsico's heavy dependence on North America makes it much more susceptible to a slowing US economy. The company is also interested in developing a joint venture partnership for growing mangoes, similar to an operation they already have in Brazil.[11]

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group

Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS),Pepper_Gains_Share Soft Drink Sales Down for Fifth Year in a Row, CNBC, 3/24/10]</ref> DPS manufactures both beverages and confectionery goods, and it has sold some of its trademarks in certain geographic regions to both KO and PEP. In the U.S., some of DPS’s significant beverage brands are:

  • 7Up
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Hawaiian Punch
  • Canada Dry
  • Snapple (US Operations)

The company identifies itself as a beverage business, and its sole revenue source is from its beverage lines. It is a direct competitor of both KO and PEP, though its as a company is significantly smaller.

Coca-Cola Company Must Grow Its Coffee and Tea Lines

With a partnership between Starbucks, Pepsi is the undisputed owner of the U.S. ready-to-drink (i.e., canned) coffee and tea market, with 90% market share. The global market is a different story - Coca-Cola's Georgia product line owns over 30% of the international market, easily dwarfing Starbuck's 4%. However, the Pepsi-Starbucks partnership has started to exert pressure on Coca-Cola Company's international sales with the 2008 beginning of its two year expansion into new markets, including China. Coca-Cola will have to protect its sales from the new competition, which is supported both by Pepsi's distribution strength and Starbucks' brand recognition.[12]

International Competition

Internationally, the Coca-Cola Company’s largest competitor is, again, PepsiCo (PEP). Both companies have significant presence in the domestic market, but KO sells more beverages outside of the U.S. KO receives nearly 80% of its operating income from international sources and holds over half of the global market share for non-alcoholic beverages. PEP, meanwhile, makes only 42% of its net revenue from outside the U.S., and a large portion of PEP’s income comes instead from its snack business, a market in which KO does not participate. [13]

In addition to PEP, Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) also sells beverages internationally, specifically in Australia, Mexico, and Canada. DPS's predecessor Cadbury Schweppes (CSG) had previously sold beverages in Europe, South Africa, and Hong Kong, among others, but the new company since sold its businesses in all markets except Australia and North America. DPS generates only 10% of its revenue from abroad, relfecting the company’s desire to concentrate on its strongest markets. [14]

There are various other concentrate manufacturers and beverage franchisers across the world, though none hold a significant percentage of the global market, instead focusing on particular geographic regions.


  1. Coca-Cola 2008 Annual Review
  2. Coca-Cola 2008 Annual Review
  3. International Sales Boost Coca-Cola's Results
  4. 2008 10-K, Item 1A, Page 14
  5. Coke set to buy Glaceau for $4.2 bln
  6. Coca-Cola 2008 Annual Review
  7. Coca-Cola 2008 Annual Review
  8. Coca-Cola 2008 Annual Review
  9. New York Times. "Bottlers Agree to a School Ban on Sweet Drinks." 5 April 2006
  10. Center for Science and Public Interest
  11. Coke Group to Invest US $300 Million in Pakistan, Dawn.com, 5/14/10
  12. Starbucks, Pepsi take bottled coffee overseas.
  13. PEP 2008 10-K
  14. DPS 2008 10-K, Geographical Data, page 106
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