It's hard for consumer companies to keep up with changing tastes among customers, and Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) has faced the challenge of keeping its core consumer base happy with its energy-drink offerings while also trying to attract new customers to try its beverages. With many turning to healthier choices like bottled water, juice, and tea, that's been an uphill battle at times, especially amid questions about whether Monster's energy drinks could have health impacts.

Coming into Wednesday's fourth-quarter financial report, Monster Beverage investors wanted to see good growth in sales and earnings as well as an encouraging picture for the coming year. With strong results, Monster finished 2018 on an up note, and the company looks more energized than ever to make 2019 everything it can be.

Monster Beverage cans in different colors, with text explanation at left.

Image source: Monster Beverage.

Monster Beverage gets going

Monster Beverage's fourth-quarter results topped expectations. Revenue of $924.2 million was up 14% from year-ago levels and well above the $899 million in sales that those following the stock were looking for. Net income rose 19% to $239.1 million, and that produced earnings of $0.43 per share, beating the consensus forecast among investors for $0.40.

Investors have gotten used to the dichotomy between Monster's two key segments. The legacy Monster Energy drink unit, which includes all of the company's more established brands, enjoyed a 16% rise in sales. That shows once again that Monster isn't giving much consideration to bulking up the performance of its strategic brands segment, which includes the energy-drink brands it acquired from Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) in their partnership arrangement. Strategic brands revenue dropped 5% during the fourth quarter compared to the year-ago period. The catch-all other revenue category saw a modest gain of $400,000 to $5.1 million in segment revenue, representing about half a percent of Monster's overall sales.

International growth took back its place in the driver's seat for Monster Beverage's overall revenue gains. Sales abroad jumped 30% during the fourth quarter, making up almost 30% of the company's total top line.

Monster saw a nice pickup in its volume and pricing metrics. The company sold 97.5 million cases, up almost 13% from year-ago levels. Monster also brought in $9.43 in sales per case, up $0.12 from prices from the previous year's fourth quarter.

Check out the latest Monster earnings call transcript.

Can Monster Beverage keep moving forward in 2019?

CEO Rodney Sacks kept his assessment of 2018's success simple. "We are pleased to report record net sales for both our 2018 fiscal fourth quarter and 2018 full year," Sacks noted, "driven by growth in our Monster Energy brand energy drinks and new energy drink introductions." The CEO also gave some credit to Monster's relationship with Coca-Cola's system bottlers for its progress.

2019 looks to be another year of Monster following its long-term strategic roadmap. As Sacks described it, "We will continue to launch our Monster Energy brand of energy drinks in new geographical markets, and plan to launch Predator, our strategically preferred affordable energy brand, in additional markets internationally."

Stock buybacks also returned with a vengeance in the fourth quarter. The company bought back 9.4 million shares at about $57 per share, spending almost $537 million. Accordingly, Monster authorized another $500 million in repurchases to replenish its capacity to continue doing repurchases.

Monster Beverage shareholders seemed pleased with the report, and the stock was higher by 6% in after-hours trading following the announcement. With continued strength, Monster appears to be moving in the right direction, and investors are looking forward to seeing how much further the company can grow in the coming year.

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