Keurig Green Mountain's Second-Quarter Report Could Be a Sign of Things to Come

Although Keurig Green Mountain's second-quarter earnings will not include the company's two upcoming systems, management's comments could be an important indication of what is in store for these important devices.

May 5, 2014 at 9:48AM

Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) reports second-quarter earnings on Wednesday May 7. The stock has been on a tear since it announced a partnership with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). Keurig's stock price surged 43% in February and still sits 25% higher than where it began the year. Investors await an important second-quarter release that could shed light on Keurig Cold and Keurig 2.0 launch dates, K-Cup pricing, and the impact of rising coffee prices on its bottom line. Any one of these things could affect the stock price going forward.

Excitement heats up over Keurig Cold
Coca-Cola's partnership on the Keurig Cold is a huge boost for the system. The world's largest beverage company's $1.2 billion investment in Keurig legitimizes the at-home carbonation channel and gives consumers a reason to buy Keurig Cold when it hits the market.

However, investors will want to see other companies sign onto Keurig Cold as well. Another large beverage company has already entered the at-home market with a different system, which puts pressure on Keurig to broaden its offering to ensure it has the most attractive system on the market. If Keurig can sign up a wide array of partners for its Cold system, then all it has to do is get the technology right and it could have another blockbuster on its hands.

However, even if Keurig Cold takes off out of the gate, it could take many years before meaningful earnings materialize from the system. The market is expecting enormous growth from Keurig Cold -- growth that may or may not materialize.

The market's high expectations have led many investors to speculate that Keurig is overvalued. At the very least, the stock's value is difficult to ascertain. Look for evidence of forward momentum in Keurig Cold: comments on new partners that may be added in the coming months and a firm launch date, which would indicate that the technology has been developed and is working. Both of these factors would go a long way toward alleviating investors' concerns about Keurig Cold.

Keurig 2.0 attempts to dethrone Keurig 1.0
While Keurig Cold has been silent on partners beyond Coca-Cola, Keurig Hot 1.0 announces new licensed partners every few weeks. Since February, the company has added makers of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to its impressive list. This broadens Keurig's beverage offering while enabling it to capture licensing revenue from its partners.

Coffee pod prices have been falling for several quarters as competition homes in on Keurig 1.0. Last quarter, K-Cup prices fell 2%. Licensing deals enable Keurig to keep brands from undercutting Keurig on price. However, Keurig needs to reclose its system to eliminate the pricing pressure altogether. This is why it is critical that Keurig 2.0 -- with its patented technology that only brews licensed K-Cups -- gets off the ground fast. Keurig 2.0 could be a sink-or-swim product for the company.

Ironically, Keurig 1.0's enormous success is the biggest factor working against Keurig 2.0's success. The company sold a record 5.1 million Keurig 1.0 brewers in the first quarter, putting it in 13% of U.S. households. Each household that buys a Keurig 1.0 is one fewer household that will want to buy a brand-new Keurig brewer within the year. As a result, Keurig 2.0 needs to offer groundbreaking technology that serves consumers, rather than just the company, if it is to replace Keurig 1.0 on Americans' counters. Look for management's comments on why Americans will want to upgrade to Keurig 2.0.

Though Keurig 2.0 may not add much value for customers, it certainly adds value to Keurig. The company faces lawsuits from white-label pod manufacturers that are trying to stop Keurig from remonopolizing the pod market. If nothing else, this is a sign that Keurig's competitors fear Keurig 2.0's potential. Look for management's comments on these lawsuits and the potential that they are successful.

Key numbers to examine in the quarter
In addition to looking for comments on additional partners and a firm launch date for Keurig Cold, updates on Keurig 2.0, and litigation regarding Keurig 2.0's technology, investors should examine two key numbers that will affect the company's near-term results: unlicensed market share and commodity prices.

As has already been mentioned, K-Cup prices have been declining for several quarters. This trend is likely to continue in Q2, although pricing pressure may subside as Keurig adds new partners to its platform. Unlicensed market share has also been rising over the last several quarters; Q1 unlicensed pod share hit 14%. K-Cup pricing may firm up if Keurig can reduce unlicensed share, so keep an eye on unlicensed share trends.

Finally, investors should determine what impact rising coffee prices will have on Keurig's bottom line. Coffee prices have doubled in the last year after a drought in Brazil -- the world's largest coffee producer -- caused fears of a supply shortage. Although the company hedges its commodity price exposure through long-term contracts, a sustained high price will force Keurig to pay higher prices when it reups purchase contracts. However, 90% of its current purchase commitments have a fixed price, shielding the company from near-term price swings. Look for management's comments on how sustained high prices could affect Keurig's earnings going forward.

Foolish takeaway
Keurig's future rests in the hands of Keurig Cold and Keurig 2.0. Investors should scour Keurig's quarterly report for evidence that these two systems will be a hit with consumers. In addition, investors should understand unlicensed pod share trends and the effect of coffee prices on Keurig's future earnings. Investors who focus on these things will have a good idea of what is in store for Keurig's stock price in the years ahead.

The biggest thing to come out of Silicon Valley in years
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Ted Cooper owns shares of Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and Keurig Green Mountain. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

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Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

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