Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO ) $1.2 billion investment in Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ: GMCR ) received endless headlines as excitement spread about the future of at-home carbonation. Everybody wondered what PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP ) would do to keep from being left behind. SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA ) rose on speculation that PepsiCo would partner with it.
Few have noticed, but PepsiCo is going to enter the at-home brewing space before Keurig Cold even hits the market. According to industry website Just-Drinks.com, PepsiCo has partnered with Bevyz, the maker of a multi-drink countertop system that combines a water cooler, coffee/tea machine, and a soft drink/juice dispenser. The Bevyz machine hits stores nationwide this May -- at least three months before Keurig Cold is expected to hit shelves.
PepsiCo's interest in the at-home carbonation channel is not surprising. During the company's fourth-quarter conference call, CEO Indra Nooyi said the company was still evaluating various technologies in the space and remained noncommittal, even leaving open the possibility of partnering with Green Mountain. Nooyi also said the company was considering a system that was "very different than what [Green Mountain] is thinking about launching." That very different system, it appears, is the Bevyz Fresh Machine.
What it means for the channel
News of PepsiCo's entry into the at-home carbonation channel comes as no surprise to industry observers. Coca-Cola's entry into the market created enormous buzz that could stir up consumer excitement about soft drinks -- an excitement that has been lacking over the last decade; energy drinks, tea, juice, and other beverage options have gradually stolen beverage share from soft drinks. If the channel turns out to be popular with consumers, PepsiCo would hate to be left behind.
However, PepsiCo's partnership with Bevyz is only one small step for the company. Although little public information is available about the private company, Bevyz appears to be a relatively small player in the market. That may be why Nooyi qualified her recent remarks about the "very different" system the company was evaluating by saying: "But we have to make sure that we align with partners who we are sure will commercialize the product. So we are working with multiple people."
As a result, the window is still open for a deal with SodaStream and maybe even Keurig Green Mountain. Partnering with multiple platforms makes sense for PepsiCo and even Coca-Cola. PepsiCo wants its beverages in as many households as possible, and spreading its distribution among many different systems is the best way to achieve high penetration.
Even though Coca-Cola has a minority stake in Keurig Green Mountain, now worth $1.8 billion, the worldwide at-home carbonation market could grow much larger than the value of Coca-Cola's stake. SodaStream estimates the U.S. at-home soda market potential is $40 billion and the worldwide market potential is $260 billion. Although these numbers are aggressive -- the U.S. number assumes at-home soda machines penetrate 100 million out of 115 million U.S. households -- the message is clear: At-home carbonation has the potential to get big, really big. As a result, Coca-Cola may want to hedge its bet and take a broad distribution approach rather than betting everything on the Keurig Cold.
What it means for investors
The at-home carbonation channel is still in its infancy. PepsiCo's partnership with Bevyz does not spell doom for SodaStream or Keurig Green Mountain. Rather, it reinforces the legitimacy of the channel. However, SodaStream -- the worldwide leader in at-home carbonation -- had only $563 million in revenue during 2013. The market is not yet a game changer for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which sport a combined $80 billion in beverage revenue. However, the market's long runway for growth makes it an important channel for both soda giants to enter and dominate.
As a result, SodaStream investors can expect strong tailwinds to lift the company's sales over the coming decade. Keurig Green Mountain, to the extent that it relies on Keurig Cold, can expect positive sales momentum as well. The returns from Coca-Cola's and PepsiCo's investments in the channel will be much longer-term, however. Shareholders may praise the companies' presence in the market 10 or 20 years from now, but it is hardly a market-moving event for either company.
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