PepsiCo (PEP 0.88%), the packaged foods giant that sells various beverages, Frito Lay snacks, and Quaker Foods, is a favorite dividend stock for many long-term investors. It pays a forward yield of 2.9%, and it's raised that dividend annually for 47 straight years.
That impressive streak makes PepsiCo a Dividend Aristocrat of the S&P 500, or a member of the index that has raised its payout for at least 25 straight years, and a future Dividend King if its streak hits 50 years. However, PepsiCo's yield might not satisfy some more aggressive dividend investors.
So today, let's examine three similar stocks that sport higher yields than the soda and snack maker.
Coca-Cola (KO 0.43%) is PepsiCo's top rival in carbonated drinks, but it doesn't sell any packaged foods. Instead, Coca-Cola mainly focuses on expanding its beverage portfolio beyond carbonated sodas with bottled water, teas, sports drinks, juices, coffee, and other drinks. It's also launched low-sugar, low-calorie, and smaller versions of its classic sodas to attract more health-conscious consumers.
Coca-Cola's organic sales tumbled 14% year-over-year in the first half of 2020 as the COVID-19 crisis shut down restaurants and stores. It didn't provide any full-year guidance, but analysts expect its revenue and earnings to decline by 12% and 14%, respectively.
That near-term outlook seems bleak, but Coca-Cola has weathered plenty of downturns before. It's a Dividend King that's raised its payout for 58 straight years, and it currently pays a forward yield of 3.2%. Coca-Cola spent 99% of its free cash flow on its dividend over the past 12 months, but that cash dividend payout ratio should drop to more sustainable levels after the pandemic passes and more businesses reopen.
2. General Mills
General Mills (GIS 0.38%) sells packaged food brands like Cheerios, Yoplait, and Haagen-Dazs, as well as Blue Buffalo's premium pet products. Prior to the pandemic, General Mills faced tough competition from healthier and private-label brands.
To offset those declining shipments, General Mills shielded its margins by raising its prices. To boost its revenue, it acquired healthier brands like Annie's organic foods and expanded into pet products by buying Blue Buffalo. General Mills' organic sales grew 4% in fiscal 2020, which ended on May 31, as pandemic-induced shopping significantly boosted its sales in the fourth quarter.
General Mills didn't provide any guidance for fiscal 2021, but analysts expect its revenue and earnings to dip 3% and 2%, respectively, due to tough year-over-year comparisons. Those growth rates seem anemic, but General Mills' forward dividend yield of 3% should set a floor under its stock until its growth stabilizes again.
General Mills froze its annual dividend hikes after it bought Blue Buffalo for $8 billion two years ago, but it spent just 37% of its FCF on its dividend over the past 12 months -- so future dividend hikes could still be in the cards.
European consumer staples giant Unilever (UL -0.83%) owns well-known brands like Dove, Lipton, Axe, Noxzema, Popsicle, Ben & Jerry, and Q-tips. Its underlying sales (comparable to the organic sales of American companies) stayed nearly flat year-over-year in the first half of 2020, as weaker sales of personal care and beauty products offset its stronger sales of home care, packaged foods, and refreshments.
However, its free cash flow rose 81% as it aggressively cut costs to preserve cash throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Unilever also didn't provide any guidance for the rest of the year, but analysts expect its revenue and earnings to rise 3% and 2%, respectively.
The company currently pays a forward dividend yield of 3.1%, but it hasn't raised that payout for six quarters. That's disappointing, but its dividend should only account for about two-thirds of its earnings this year -- which leaves it plenty of room for future hikes. Its yield also remains much higher than its rival Procter & Gamble's forward yield of 2.3%.
The key takeaways
Investors should always remember that a high yield doesn't always highlight a better income investment. The strength of a company's underlying business, its ability to consistently grow its dividend, and its valuations are all generally stronger indicators of its future performance than its yield.
That being said, investors looking for stable businesses with slightly higher yields than PepsiCo can't go wrong with Coca-Cola, General Mills, or Unilever -- which have all endured ugly market crashes before.