Starbucks delivered another stinker of a quarter, with more layoffs and closures. Green Mountain, on the other hand, easily surpassed Wall Street's heightened expectations.
Net sales soared 56% during the java junkie's fiscal first quarter. Earnings, before a fat and favorable patent-litigation settlement, clocked in at $0.16 share. Vermont-based Green Mountain rang up a profit of just $0.12 a share a year earlier.
Wall Street could use a little more caffeine in its diet. It fell asleep again, expecting Green Mountain to earn just $0.13 a share on $189.3 million in revenue. The company has now beaten analysts' profit estimates in five consecutive quarters. Coincidence? Of course not.
I've been suggesting that investors replace Starbucks in their portfolios with Green Mountain since last spring. How many more quarters do you need before you realize that Green Mountain remains the beneficiary of the weakening juggernaut?
Green Mountain moved 711,000 Keurig brewers last quarter, a 121% improvement over last year's fiscal first quarter. The company sells the units practically at cost, knowing that it will make it up in the patented K-Cups needed to deliver cups of coffee. The company sold 357 million K-Cup portion packs during the three-month period, a 55% improvement. That's where the real money is, but this isn't just a razor-and-blades story.
Green Mountain is probably more like Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK). Yes, Nintendo. Both companies sell hardware on the cheap, knowing that they will make up any shortfall through the fat margins that accompany their proprietary supplies (whether they be Wii software titles or K-Cup coffee portions). Both companies also go one step further, collecting royalties whenever third-party developers market Wii titles or K-Cup flavors.
In Green Mountain's case, popular coffee bean specialists like Gloria Jean's, Timothy, Coffee People, and Caribou (Nasdaq: CBOU ) all have to pay up at the K-Cup tollbooth.
The trend is hot
Why do you think so many Keurig brewers sold over the holidays? Could it be that folks are tired of heading out to Starbucks or Peet's (Nasdaq: PEET ) , waiting in line, and overpaying? The K-Cup provides economical and convenient one-cup servings, and that is clearly resonating as a welcome value proposition (even if the brewers aren't initially cheap).
It may have seemed as if Green Mountain was in over its head after acquiring Keurig a couple of years ago, but all the pieces fit perfectly these days. Better yet for Green Mountain, retailers like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) are offering discounts on subscriptions, keeping a steady flow of K-Cups coming to a horde of caffeine addicts.
The best thing about last night's report is that brewer sales are growing twice as fast as the coffee packs. Just as investors applaud when Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG ) moves a ton of robotic surgical arms -- knowing that a flurry of orders for parts and maintenance calls will follow -- Green Mountain should have a great run over the next few quarters as those holiday owners begin ordering their K-Cup refills.
Maybe that's why Green Mountain is one of the few companies increasing its guidance at this point. The company now sees 43% to 48% in net sales growth this year, up from its earlier 40% to 45% range. Green Mountain's revised forecast also includes a profit of $1.25 a share to $1.35 a share, not including the $0.40-a-share patent lawsuit award, raising both ends of its range by a nickel per share.
Wake up, investors. Green Mountain certainly isn't cheap at today's multiples, but remember when you used to pay a premium for coffee at Starbucks a few years ago? It's time to pay a premium for Green Mountain's heady growth.
Starbucks may still have Foolish fans, but not me: