Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) has been pummeled so hard this year that at times it's hard to remember that there's still a growth company buried under a mountain of worry.
The company on Wednesday revealed a few inspirational nuggets for battered and bruised investors.
- The company is working with pharmaceutical companies on functional Keurig beverages. We're talking about brewed drinks that would be fortified with vitamins and minerals for wellness.
- Green Mountain's CEO points out how the company may be able to combat the patent expirations behind its K-Cup technology by raising the prices of its brewers.
- Even though the margins won't be same, the company is considering making private-label K-Cups for store brands in the future.
Toss that in with an encouraging note today by Janney Capital analyst Mark Kalinowski -- pointing out how Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) may finally begin selling the K-Cup refills that have been available since November in its stores by next week -- and it's easy to begin calling a bottom to the stock's cruel slide.
Skeptics check in on pricing
Some market watchers are skeptical about Green Mountain's ability to increase brewer prices.
Green Mountain has historically viewed the Keurig brewer as an appliance it can sell at cost. In a true razor and blades model, Green Mountain profits from the K-Cup end of the business. However, once those patents expire later this year, Green Mountain will be down to cashing in on its own affiliated brands and its licensing deals. The days of skimming a few cents off of every K-Cup will be toast.
However, why can't this razor and blade model be reversed? Green Mountain will still be making a lot of K-Cup money, but many third parties will simply go their own way here. The end result is that K-Cups will get cheaper, and not by just 5% to 10%.
Keurig has already had a cost advantage over the high-pressure single-cup systems that specialize in fancy coffee drinks. Now that the K-Cups will get even cheaper -- and have varieties far more plentiful -- do you really think Keurig isn't going to milk its patents that aren't expiring alongside the K-Cup technology? Single-cup brewer prices will go up, and consumers will pay up because the economics of ownership will make more sense with cheaper refills.
Functional beverages, coming right up
If you've seen the premium people are willing to pay for vitamin-fortified water bottles or the lofty valuation commanded by Monster Beverage (Nasdaq: MNST ) given its strong position in energy drinks, you can appreciate the value of what Green Mountain is trying to do here.
If it's able to pass on wellness attributes in its drinks, it will encourage great sales and a higher frequency of usage.
It remains to be seen whether this can be addressed in the brewing process, but this could be another disruptive game-changer for a company that has already set the bar high with the undisputed champ of single-serve brewers.
Going private -- private label, that is
Offering to make house brands of its K-Cups for stores is a humbling move, but a smart one.
If Green Mountain doesn't do it, others will. A Treehouse Foods (NYSE: THS ) subsidiary already ran afoul of Green Mountain's patents with a K-Cup workaround. That was two years ago. Just imagine the scene when the platform goes off-patent.
Green Mountain won't enter this market unless it can do so profitably, but it makes sense. It will be a smart way to make sure the quality of the K-Cup experience holds up.
It's been a rough past few months for Green Mountain. Slowing sales and other bearish knocks finally got the better of the once-highflying growth stock.
The good news here is that the stock the stock has never been cheaper. Green Mountain is now fetching just 10 times this year's earnings and less than eight times next fiscal year's target. Wall Street may have hosed down its expectations, but it still sees the company growing its bottom line by 45% this year and 30% in fiscal 2013.
All the stock needs now is positive catalysts to wash away the nasty aftertaste of unfortunate and embarrassing events, and that pipeline is finally starting to look healthy again.
Brew ha ha
Shares of Green Mountain have still handily beat the market since I originally recommended the java heavy to Rule Breakers subscribers three years ago. It's lost a lot of ground lately, but if you want to discover the newsletter service's next Rule-Breaking multibagger, a free report tells all. Check it out before it's gone.