What's your investing goal? Paying for a child's education or buying a home are certainly worthwhile aims. For most of us, though, securing a nice retirement is the ultimate long-term target. The sooner that goal is achieved, the better.
Some stocks, however, are better-suited for the task than others. The pillars of a retirement portfolio not only have to offer upside potential but consistency and reliability as well.
To this end, investors looking to build a sizable nest egg may want to consider a stake in The Coca-Cola Company (KO 0.10%). It's boring and even a bit obvious in terms of a stock pick. That's the point, though.
Then there's its surprising edge.
Crunching Coca-Cola's numbers
It's not an organization that needs much of an introduction. Coca-Cola is, of course, one of the world's leading beverage companies, parent to brands ranging from Fresca to Dasani to Minute Maid to, of course, Coca-Cola and more.If you think the company's business is bottling beverages, however, that's not quite the case.
It's in the drinks business, to be sure. However, most of its bottling operations have been sold off over the past several years, allowing the company to focus on licensing and building a better royalty-generating organization. Although it was a multi-year effort and is in some ways still underway, the bulk of the task was completed by 2019.
The end result is lower revenue but higher profit margins. As it turns out, there's more money to be made in owning a brand name licensed to bottlers than there is in bottling the stuff yourself. This is especially true in inflationary environments like the one we're in now since it's the bottlers bearing the bulk of the burden of higher costs.
It's not just Coke's advantageous business model that makes it a fiscal powerhouse, though. To the extent it needs to do so, it's got pricing power. Organic revenue for the three-month stretch ended in early July were up 16% year over year, but unit volume -- the number of total drinks sold in the quarter -- was up 8% on its own. That's despite price increases imposed over the course of the past year, give or take.
The true upside of the consistent demand, however, is the dividend-supporting earnings it drives. Even against cost headwinds, last quarter's per-share operating earnings of $0.70 were far more than enough to fund the dividend payment of $0.44 per share -- a dividend, by the way, that's been raised every year for the past 60 years.
These aren't chump-change increases either. This year's new dividend is 5% bigger than last year's quarterly payouts. Consider that 20 years ago the company was only providing a quarterly payout of $0.20 per share. That's a lot of dividend growth! Even without it, the stock itself is up nearly 150% for that 20-year stretch.
One key to this consistent earnings and revenue growth is constant reinvention. Admittedly, it's not always easy to see. The beverage business is pretty simple, and most new products or new approaches go mostly unnoticed.
It's not likely that any consumers have even realized, for instance, that their drinks probably aren't bottled by Coca-Cola anymore but are instead being produced by a licensed bottler. Similarly, many consumers may not realize that Coca-Cola's sleek, slim cans were only introduced early last year.
These little things add up, though, often without customers even realizing they're increasingly compelled by the product.
Look for more of the same product innovation, too. Case in point: Though its plans were stymied by the pandemic, Coca-Cola's early 2019 acquisition of Costa Coffee is finally being worked out. Costa is the world's second-biggest coffee chain -- particularly big in Europe -- and just last week, the company opened its first U.S. store in Atlanta.
Future U.S. openings will be forced to compete with Starbucks right out of the gate. It will be interesting nonetheless, however, to see how the deep-pocketed beverage powerhouse differentiates its coffeehouse brand from the bigger player noted for its premium prices. In the meantime, the Coca-Cola Company intends to leverage the Costa brand with more coffee vending machines, ground coffee for at-home brewing, and pods for Keurig machines.
Coffee, by the way, is a highly fragmented $400 billion+ market that Mordor Intelligence says is growing steadily at a clip of more than 4% per year. A company like Coca-Cola could readily capitalize on that growth by fostering brand loyalty via all the ways Costa connects with its customers.
Quench your growth thirst
There's more to Coca-Cola's future than just coffee, of course. Costa is just one example of several levers the company can pull to keep growing (albeit one of the most promising ones right now). The beverage outfit will be pulling other ones as well, even if those outcomes aren't quite as dramatic.
The bottom line is that Coca-Cola is a player with a track record of consistent growth and proven staying power. It's never going to dish out huge, overnight gains. For investors with retirement in mind, though, a long-term position in The Coca-Cola Company could help make that happen sooner than you might expect.