Beverage and snack foods giant PepsiCo (PEP -0.40%) doesn't need much in the way of an introduction. The $200 billion company owns some of the world's best-known brands, including its namesake Pepsi soft drinks, Lay's potato chips, Quaker Oats, and Lipton tea. Income investors particularly like the fact that its diversified product base supports the consistent payment of a dividend that, at current shares prices, yields 2.9% -- more than twice the 1.38% that the S&P 500 is yielding this month.
However, if your big goal as an investor is to find safe, high-yielding dividend stocks, here are three that you can buy right now that offer better payouts than PepsiCo with even less risk.
1. Coca-Cola just tastes better, to dividend fans
Dividend yield: 3.1%
Anyone who knows PepsiCo is certainly familiar with Coca-Cola (KO -0.65%). The two companies have been going toe-to-toe for decades now, but rather than tearing one another down, their competitive efforts have kept rivals from seriously penetrating the soft drinks market.
If you're specifically looking for a dividend payer with a presence on your grocery store's shelves, however, Coke is the better bet.
Coca-Cola has spent the last several years getting out of the bottling business, shifting to a model in which it largely licenses its brands to third-party bottling companies. While exiting the bottling and distribution part of its business reduced its revenue, the profit margins on licensing are much stronger than the margins on bottling. This strategy was just starting to bear financial fruit when the COVID-19 pandemic up-ended the world.
In some parts of the world, things are easing back toward normalcy now, and although the company continues to turn its contracted bottlers into franchisee partners, earnings growth is picking up where it left off in early 2020.
The analysts' consensus forecast for 2021 earnings per share of $2.18 isn't just better than last year's crimped bottom line -- it's also better than 2019's EPS of $2.11, even though sales are expected to come in about 1% below where they did that year. And earnings at that level will be more than enough to cover the current annualized dividend of $1.68 per share.
2. Sheer size makes Southern Company a better buy
Dividend yield: 4.1%
As reliably as consumers might purchase their favorite beverages, they're even more committed to keeping their lights on. That's what makes utility companies such great dividend stocks -- people prioritize paying those particular bills. And one of the best utility stocks to buy right now is Southern Company (SO -0.10%), sporting a dividend yield of 4.1%.
It's possible you're a customer of Southern Company without even realizing it. It's the parent to several more-localized utility providers such as Georgia Power, Virginia Natural Gas, and Southern Nuclear. It's also an electricity wholesaler. All told, it serves 9 million customers in a handful of states, most of which are found (unsurprisingly) in the southern United States. It's the country's third-biggest utility company by market cap.
Its size may seem irrelevant, but don't dismiss this detail. Although the power delivery business has always been capital-intensive, the rise of environmentally friendly renewable energy sources is requiring utilities to make some heavy upfront expenditures.
To this end, Southern is budgeting for more than $35 billion worth of capital expenditures over the next five years. That hefty figure will cover big investments in renewable power facilities -- including its recent acquisition of South Dakota's Deuel Harvest Wind Farm and Oklahoma's Glass Sands Wind Facility -- in an arena where scale is necessary to achieve fiscal viability.
It's also worth noting the company just upped its dividend for the 20th straight year. With just five more years between it and Dividend Aristocrat status, it's likely that Southern Company's management will do what takes to avoid restarting that clock now.
3. From pipeline to portfolio, Pfizer's built for success
Dividend yield: 3.9%
Finally, add pharmaceutical outfit Pfizer (PFE 0.61%) to your list of dividend stocks paying more than PepsiCo currently does.
Pfizer is the name behind blockbusters like pneumonia vaccine Prevnar, cancer drug Ibrance, and Eliquis, which is used to prevent blood clots. The company has gained additional international recognition for the COVID-19 vaccine it co-developed with BioNTech, sales of which helped boost last quarter's top line by an incredible 42% year over year. That sales surge is expected to persist for the better part of this year, although it clearly won't last forever.
The thing is, it doesn't matter. Even after revenue starts sliding back to more normalized levels in 2022, this company will remain one of the best and most profitable names in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2019, Pfizer turned $51.8 billion worth of sales into net operating income of $16.7 billion -- and that was a fairly typical year.
Its profit-generating power is a testament not just to the company's current portfolio, but to a pipeline that seems perpetually full of budding blockbusters. Per the company's most recent calculations, the candidates being tested in its 38 potential breakthrough trials could generate more than $15 billion in sales through 2025, and collectively produce annual revenue of between $35 billion and $40 billion at their peak sales.
Perhaps the strongest dividend-based argument for owning Pfizer, however, is how committed the company is to that payout. Pfizer has made a payment every quarter for the past 82 years and has upped its dividend every year for the past 11. Moreover, during that 11-year stretch, the company has increased the payout at an average yearly rate of 7.3%.