The Latest News in the Beverage Industry: Coke, Pepsi, SodaStream, Del Monte, and Ford

Over the past couple of weeks, some news involving beverage companies Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) and PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) , homemade soda system maker SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA  ) , fruit company Fresh Del Monte (NYSE: FDP  ) , and car manufacturer Ford (NYSE: F  ) came across the Web that you may find of interest and provide valuable insight into the beverage industry.

Innovation
When you look to the distant future you may think of food and beverage replicators or transporters seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation. You may also think of darker concepts of genetically engineered soldiers bent on taking over the world. According to an interview with India news outlet Live Mint cited in Beverage Daily, Coca-Cola's chief technology officer Guy Wollaert believes that genomics will provide the means to produce beverages tailored specifically to our own genetic makeup. He believes that technology will make the measurement of health metrics more precise and personal, translating into more individually tailored products. 

In other innovative news, over the past few years Coca-Cola has used a green technology in its plastic bottles comprised of recycled material and plants. According to an article in USA Today, Ford and Coca-Cola teamed up to produce a seat fabric for its cars made out of the same material. Ford created a prototype "Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid" that contains "seat cushions, seat backs, head restraints, door panel inserts and headliners" containing the new material. The article claims that it would put a dent in the usage of plastics, gasoline, and oil. It's interesting how two unrelated companies can come together on an environmental goal. 

Partnerships
SodaStream has struck up some interesting partnerships with the likes of large companies such as Kraft Foods and Campbell Soup. Now it plans to partner up with fruit seller Fresh Del Monte to produce carbonated versions of its fruit syrups. According to fellow Fool Rick Munarriz, this represents Fresh Del Monte's first foray into carbonated beverages. He also points out that SodaStream needs new innovation to counter disappointing syrup sales, which actually declined 3% in the United States. SodaStream, like the rest of the carbonated soda business, faces increasing headwinds from the healthy-lifestyle movement. Right now ,new partnerships can go a long way in boosting consumer interest.

Product variation
Apparently all of the negative press about the Mexican Coca-Cola bottler Arca Continental switching from cane sugar to fructose had the fans of "Mexicoke" worried, according to an Associated Press article. To their relief, "Mexicoke" will retain its flavor. Apparently people enjoy Mexican Coca-Cola due to its taste that harkens to the day before the switch to corn syrup back in the 1980s. This goes to show you that not all Coca-Colas are created equal. 

Expansion
Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced major expansion plans into emerging markets over the past couple of weeks, according to Bloomberg. Coca-Cola plans to invest $4 billion in China from 2015 to 2017. This probably represents a wise move, considering that China only consumed 39 servings per capita last year. Coca-Cola also wants to cater its beverages locally to increase consumer appeal in China.

PepsiCo plans to invest more than $5 billion in India. PepsiCo lost market share there in carbonated soda beverages over the past five years, going from 40.1% in 2007 to 36.4% last year, according to Bloomberg. By contrast, Coca-Cola gained market share during the same period, going to 60.9% versus 57% five years ago. According to a CNBC interview cited in Beverage Daily, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said that India can accommodate both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, and that any rivalry talk is "irrelevant." 

Trends
In the latest blow to the hopes of die-hard soda fans everywhere for a carbonated renaissance, an article from Beverage Daily highlights sharp declines in soda consumption among people under the age of 35 in Australia. The articles also talks about at least some decline in soda consumption among all age groups in the country. Moreover, among carbonated users, the quantity of consumption continues on a downward trend, with the exception of the older set. 

Foolish takeaway
Even in the potentially lucrative emerging markets, political leaders faced with rising health care costs stemming from obesity want to raise soda taxes to combat the problem by putting a friction on soda demand and raising funds for health programs to reduce societal burden. Investing in big soda companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo or even the fast-growing SodaStream may not represent the sure bet it once was.

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  • Report this Comment On November 19, 2013, at 5:41 PM, figglebird wrote:

    This article points out the reason one SHOULD be invested in SODA.

    They represent the future of an evolving market by taking the lead in solving the problems the industry faces with respect to to decelerating consumption.

    To compare them to a traditional beverage company would be like comparing a refrdigerator to a steak.

    They are not really even a beverage company. Anyone who follows them knows(as they have themselves stated) that they are a GAS COMPANY.

    Just ask kitchen aid(whr) or Breville or Samsung.

    I continue to find it both surprising and profitible that so many folks in the finance community TRULY do not understand what this company is.

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