Monster Beverage (MNST 0.49%) is one of the biggest success stories of the 21st century, but it's also a great example of a company that's been able to battle back against adversity while staying true to its long-term vision. Even as the beverage company emerged as a power player, it had to overcome the challenges of perceived health concerns while retaining a customer base that's proven fickle in its loyalty to other types of drinks. As the experience of soft-drink makers shows, changing consumer preferences can be fatal to the growth of companies like Monster.
Coming into Thursday's first-quarter financial report, Monster Beverage investors were prepared to accept relatively modest growth in earnings and sales to begin the year. Instead, Monster erupted onto the scene with much stronger results, energizing investors and setting the stage for what could be a highly prosperous year for the beverage company.
It's time for Monster Beverage to shine
Monster Beverage's first-quarter results were impressive. Revenue of $946 million climbed 11% from last year's first quarter, easily surpassing the 7% sales growth that most of those following the stock had expected. Net income was higher by 21%, to $261.5 million, and that produced earnings of $0.48 per share, topping the consensus forecast among investors for $0.42 per share.
The quarter was unusual for Monster in that both of its major segments managed to grow their sales for the period. The key Monster Energy drink unit had superior growth of almost 12%, overcoming adverse currency impacts that cost the unit another couple of percentage points of gains.
Yet even though Monster hasn't seemed to be as concerned about its strategic brands segment, which incorporates all the energy drinks that Coca-Cola had before it partnered up with Monster, that business nevertheless saw a 7% sales gain for the quarter, as well. Revenue from third-party products from the acquired American Fruits & Flavors business grew by double-digit percentages, making it a clean sweep for Monster Beverage.
International growth outpaced domestic sales gains despite currency headwinds. Net sales to customers outside the U.S. were up 17% for the period, representing roughly 30% of total sales for the company.
Internal metrics also improved. Case sales of 101.3 million were up almost 9 million cases from year-ago levels, while average sales prices rose $0.12, to $9.29 per case.
What's next for Monster Beverage?
CEO Rodney Sacks didn't overly complicate the success story at Monster. "Record gross and net sales in the 2019 first quarter," Sacks noted, "were again driven by growth in our Monster Energy brand energy drinks, new Monster Energy brand energy drink introductions, as well as the launch of our Reign Total Body Fuel high performance energy drinks." The CEO also noted that the strategic alignment with Coca-Cola system bottlers is now complete.
Monster sees further product introductions for 2019. In particular, the company's Predator brand, which it calls its "strategically preferred affordable energy brand," will see launches in several additional markets over the course of the year. Meanwhile, in the U.S., new products included Monster Energy Ultra Paradise and Monster Dragon Tea, as well as expansion of Java Monster Swiss Chocolate.
Monster's buyback activity slowed during the quarter, however. The energy-drink giant paid just $139 million to buy 2.6 million shares, spending just over $54 per share, on average. That was down by almost 75% from last quarter's repurchase volume, but Monster still has about $520 million in total authorizations remaining.
Monster Beverage investors celebrated the news, and the stock climbed 8% in after-hours trading following the announcement. With no signs of any slowdown in its momentum, Monster has the financial and business support it needs to carry its positive performance into coming quarters for the foreseeable future.