Today's beverage companies are not your mom and dad's soda pop as diversification and global branding have created a wave of products and opened doors to new markets across the global village. Of course, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) remains a leader, but upstarts like Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ: GMCR ) and SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA ) offer more choices to consumers and investors.
Coca-Cola says no to BVO, yes to Keurig Green Mountain
In early May, Coca-Cola announced that it will cut a controversial ingredient from all of its drinks. The company said it will be "transitioning from the use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO)."
While the company believes BVO is safe, this has been a hot-button issue. Some consumer groups have been pressuring the beverage company to eliminate its use of the oil.
Coke's announcement stated in part that "in the coming months, select citrus-flavored products available on shelves, in vending machines and fountain machines will begin to incorporate the new ingredients...we anticipate the transition will be complete for all of our beverages in the United States by the end of 2014."
In short, this will steer the company clear of this potential controversy and support its iconic brand name. However, a bigger move by Coke in May was the company increasing its stake in Keurig Green Mountain.
As previously reported in February 2014, Coca-Cola took about a 10% stake in Keurig Green Mountain by ponying up $1.25 billion for 16.7 million of its shares. According to a recent report by Bloomberg News, Coke increased its holding to 16% and now controls 26 million Keurig Green Mountain Shares.
Why the Coke deal with Keurig Green Mountain matters
The original deal between the beverage makers is a 10-year partnership that offers Keurig Green Mountain a path to move into the home-brewed cold beverage and soda game with its 'The Keurig Cold Machine.'
Like its home coffee-making cousin, the machine makes sodas, sports drinks, and other beverages at home using specially designed pods. Now, exclusive Coca-Cola-branded pods designed for use with the at-home beverage system will be part of the mix. In short, this is a win-win deal for both companies.
Keurig Green Mountain has the opportunity to tap into Coke's branding and global market presence. As for Coca Cola, the alliance gives the iconic beverage maker a straight path into the growing 'single-serve at home' channel. The deal also provides a new packaging format for other Coca-Cola brands.
Obviously this raises speculation on the Street that Keurig Green Mountain could be a takeover target. This is because Coke needs to diversify its business as soft-drink sales decline.
Keurig Green Mountain's single-cup beverage system will become available for sale toward the end of the company's 2015 fiscal year, which is actually later in 2014. So the question remains as to how successful this product launch will be, and whether consumers will maintain their enthusiasm for home-brewed cold beverages in the long run.
In the meantime, any take-over speculation is merely coffee talk, so to speak. Coca-Cola's play has, however, been a boon to the share price of Keurig Green Mountain -- which presently hovers at about $117, slightly off of the 52-week high of $124.42. Moreover, with a forward P/E of 28.99, below the current ratio of 33.07, investors may want to top off their cups.
What this deal means for SodaStream
The strategic alliance between Coca-Cola and Keurig will have an impact on SodaStream -- the leader in the at-home carbonated-beverage market -- and a play for a similar alliance or takeover could occur in time.
Meanwhile, the company released its first-quarter results in May. The financial report was highlighted by revenue increasing from $117.6 million in the year-ago period to $118.2 million. However, earnings suffered due to expenses associated with the company's expansion into markets outside of the U.S. as well as the negative impact "from the challenging holiday season."
SodaStream's Chief Executive Officer Daniel Birnbaum said that the company is adjusting its marketing and selling strategies to "further increase household penetration."
"We are confident that our long history leading the evolution of home carbonation continues to provide us with strong competitive advantages and compelling growth opportunities across the globe," he said.
Going forward, the company still anticipates that full-year revenue will climb by about 15% while it also expects revenue to recover and grow by 11% over 2013 to come in at $62.2 million.
SodaStream's tough earnings year in 2013 left a mark on its share price and Soda currently trades at about $37 and change. However, with a forward P/E of 16.70, well below the current ratio of 25.28, investors can expect some tasty profits at this price level.
Final foolish thoughts
Growth opportunities exist in the at-home beverage sector, and the Coca-Cola deal with Keurig Green Mountain is good for both companies. Also, the increased interest that Soda will garner as a takeover target or strategic partner will benefit the company in the long run. In sum, this is a good time for long-term investors to consider each of these beverage companies.
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