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2022 Market Prediction: Coca-Cola Outperforms PepsiCo

By Parkev Tatevosian, CFA – Jan 12, 2022 at 1:55AM

Key Points

  • Coca-Cola is more dependent on beverage sales away from home.
  • PepsiCo's snack segment has thrived since the pandemic's onset.
  • PepsiCo's stock performance more than doubled Coca-Cola's in 2021.

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Momentum in economic reopenings could be the catalyst that turns the tide in Coca-Cola's favor.

International consumer packaged-goods giants Coca-Cola (KO 0.29%) and PepsiCo (PEP 0.81%) have competed for decades. The two are similar regarding the beverages they sell worldwide. The one significant difference is that PepsiCo has a robust snack segment. 

In 2021, PepsiCo's stock returned 17%, handily outperforming Coca-Cola's return of 8%. That being said, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Coca-Cola will turn the tables in 2022.

Two people drinking a beverage.

Image source: Getty Images.

Stay-at-home trends were good for PepsiCo's business

The effects of the pandemic were helpful to PepsiCo's business and harmful to Coca-Cola. PepsiCo's robust snack division has thrived since the pandemic's onset. Folks are spending more time working, learning, and entertaining at home, and so it is creating more opportunities to have a snack. 

What's more, PepsiCo's snack division runs a higher operating profit margin than its beverage segment. In its 36 weeks ended Sept. 4, PepsiCo's snack segment (Frito-Lay) reported revenue of $13.4 billion and operating income of $4 billion. In contrast, its beverage segment reported revenue of $17.6 billion and operating income of $1.9 billion. These figures are for North America alone.

Meanwhile, the effects of the pandemic have been harmful to Coca-Cola. The company has spent decades securing exclusive relationships with venue operators worldwide, including movie theaters, ballparks, theme parks, and restaurants, along with college campuses. So when governments mandated the closures of nonessential businesses, sales fell for Coca-Cola and its partners. In 2020, Coke's sales were down by 11.4%.

Why will 2022 be any different for Coca-Cola?

Thankfully, several effective vaccines and treatments against COVID-19 have been developed and administered worldwide. That has given governments the confidence to reopen economies and keep them open despite several surges of COVID infection. Economic reopening started gaining momentum in the second quarter of 2021, first in regions with better access to vaccines and moving on to the rest of the world as the year progressed. 

Fans can again watch their favorite teams live and in person. People can go to see musicians in concert, and restaurants are welcoming guests to dine on premises, both inside and outside. Although this return to routine has been progressing throughout 2021, away-from-home sales of beverages are still below pre-pandemic levels, according to Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey.

However, if economic reopening continues to gain momentum in 2022, away-from-home beverage sales will likely surpass 2019 levels. And remember that beverages cost much more when you buy them for consumption outside of your home. A Coke at a movie theater can hit your wallet for $6, while the same quantity can be had for less than $2 at a grocery store. 

Simultaneously, as people are spending more time away from home, returning to offices -- and with students going back to school on campus -- there will be fewer opportunities to eat at home, thereby slowing sales for PepsiCo's lucrative snack segment. 

The combination of increasing beverage sales for Coca-Cola and decreasing sales in PepsiCo's snack segment could be the catalyst that causes Coca-Cola's stock to outperform PepsiCo in 2022. 

Parkev Tatevosian owns Coca-Cola. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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