Sodastream (SODA) has come a long way since a brutal operating stretch in 2014 and 2015 threatened its entire business. The at-home carbonated beverage giant produced record earnings last year following a pivot toward sparkling water and away from its prior focus on cola drinks.
CEO Daniel Birnbaum and his executive team are aiming to complete their impressive turnaround by generating over $600 million of sales in 2018, which would eclipse the prior record of $563 million set way back in 2013.
Sodastream's upcoming earnings release, set to publish on May 2, will give investors their first glimpse into the company's 2018 operating trends. Let's take a closer look at the key metrics to follow.
Sparkling sales gains
Sodastream entered the year with healthy sales momentum. A 26% spike in beverage machine sales drove revenue higher by 20% over the holiday quarter to mark its fastest expansion pace of the year. That boost allowed sales to rise by 14% for the full year and edge past management's initial 13% goal thanks to healthy demand for the latest lineup of carbonation devices.
Investors can expect continued gains here but likely at a slower pace than last quarter given that executives are targeting 12% growth for 2018. Within that figure, Sodastream is hoping to expand both in the U.S. and in its higher-penetration markets in Europe. And as usual, keep an eye on the sales pace for carbonation canisters. Rising demand for these consumables reflects robust engagement on the part of its customers. That's why it was good news for the business that container sales rose 11% last quarter to push Sodastream's user base to 12.5 million.
A big benefit of Sodastream's sales collapse was that it spurred management to make dramatic changes to the company's cost infrastructure. They reduced manufacturing expenses and became much more efficient at marketing while also introducing higher-priced beverage machines. These moves all contributed to record high profitability in 2017 as gross margin improved to 53% of sales from 51%.
Growth in operating income should slow to a 20% pace in 2018 from last year's 49% spike. Yet investors can still expect margins to keep rising, both in terms of gross and operating profitability.
An updated growth forecast
Sodastream's engaged user base makes it the biggest sparkling water brand in the world, by volume. Yet the company has big plans for future market share gains. These initiatives start with new product releases, including a one-touch machine set to launch in the second quarter. They include an aggressive push deeper into European markets, too, that sets Sodastream up for direct rivalry against sparkling water giant Perrier on its home turf in France.
These expansion strategies will take years to play out, but investors won't have to wait to see increasing returns. Sodastream's current forecast calls for sales to rise 12% to $608 million in 2018. Meanwhile, the $89 million of operating income that management believes it will generate amounts to a significant jump from the $59 million it produced when sales last reached those heights in fiscal 2013.