Is PepsiCo the Better Play? 

Coke or Pepsi -- does the choice really matter? If we're talking soda, I'll let you decide. When it comes to the actual companies behind the brands, the answer is both yes and no.

Global snacks and beverage behemoth PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) reported fourth-quarter revenue of $13.3 billion, a 4.5% increase from the year-ago period. For all of 2009, the maker of Pepsi ONE and SoBe juice drinks saw revenue that was basically flat, at $43.2 billion.

Quarterly earnings per share came in at $0.90, representing a monster jump from the $0.46 earned in 2008's fourth quarter. However, when we exclude items such as mark-to-market adjustments and restructuring costs, EPS inches up a mere 2% or so, from $0.88 to $0.90.

It's helpful to view full-year performance in the same light, where 2009 core EPS advanced 1%, to $3.71.

Results by segment and geography were mixed. Mirroring a trend that we saw in Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO  ) latest numbers, PepsiCo's beverage business was notably stronger on the global stage than here at home. International volumes gained 6% for the year, with emerging and developing regions showing even greater strength.

However, the Americas Beverages segment saw volume head in the opposite direction, plummeting a like amount. Since the company annoyingly lumps North and South America together, it's tough to know exactly how much of that ugly showing owes solely to the U.S. consumer's waning thirst for all things fizzy and sugary. In broad strokes, I'd say that was a big factor. Consider, for instance, that Coca-Cola saw its Latin American volumes climb 6% on the year. Or how about the relative strength of the Latin American consumer in general, evidenced by the solid regional results recently posted by such companies as Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) , Diageo (NYSE: DEO  ) , Philip Morris International (NYSE: PM  ) , and Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM  ) ?    

I believe it's safe to say that the U.S. consumer was responsible for much of that 6% volume drop. And that means that PepsiCo is trailing Coca-Cola, whose North American volumes only fell 2% for the year.

But PepsiCo has a foot in both worlds -- beverages and snacks & foods. The latter category saw Americas volume flat for the year and up 3% internationally. Not bad. But more importantly, this category offers PepsiCo an opportunity to lever its future growth to healthy living trends, by extending innovation efforts beyond still beverages -- something that Coca-Cola, as a beverage-only giant, can't do. 

The company's "good-for-you portfolio" ranks among its key growth strategies, and the foresight of this approach is confirmed by companies such as Kellogg (NYSE: K  ) , whose recently best-performing snacks subcategory was wholesome items.

Ultimately, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola's key differences may be a net neutral. And that's where I'll leave it to you, fellow Fool. Sound off on your soda of choice in the comment box below.

Refresh yourself with some related Foolishness:

Diageo, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo are Motley Fool Income Investor choices.Coca-Cola is an Inside Value selection. Philip Morris International is a Global Gains pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Mike Pienciak holds no financial interest in any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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