2022 was a good year for Procter & Gamble (PG 0.31%) stock investors. Yes, shares declined through mid-December. But P&G outperformed the S&P 500 in a down year, just as you might expect from a leader in the consumer staples space.

The year ahead might be a different story. Sales volumes look weak heading into 2023, which could add pressure to the company as it seeks to roll out more price increases. Shoppers are not in a free-spending mood either, and they might tilt their focus toward products offering the best bargains.

With that key risk in mind, let's look at where P&G might lead shareholders over the next year.

Toward market share gains

P&G consistently outpaces its peer Kimberly-Clark in core growth metrics. Organic sales were up 7% in the most recent quarter, for example, and volumes fell by just 1%. Kimberly-Clark reported slower growth due to more significant volume declines.

That outperformance comes from key assets that P&G enjoys, including a wider portfolio of leading brands in niches like laundry care, home care, baby care, and skin care.

That success implies that P&G stock can beat rivals over longer periods, mainly through steady market share growth. Look for the company to modestly outperform the wider consumer staples industry, which could see unusually slow growth in 2023.

Lower cash returns

P&G tends to shower investors with cash, but the pace of those returns will likely slow down by late 2023. Earnings are being pressured by huge headwinds, including currency exchange rate shifts, rising costs, and slowing growth. Management in mid-October lowered its forecast for profits and reported sales, estimating a roughly $4 billion, or 27-percentage-point, hit to the bottom line in fiscal 2023.

PG Stock Buybacks (TTM) Chart

PG Stock Buybacks (TTM) data by YCharts

The good news is that P&G is extremely efficient at converting earnings into free cash flow. That success should help it pay at least $15 billion out in dividends and stock buybacks this fiscal year compared to $19 billion in the prior year. It is no small feat to keep delivering such high direct returns even as the business is hit by major financial pressures.

A higher dividend

There's no telling whether a recession will develop over the next few quarters, which would likely push sales volumes down further and make it harder for P&G to keep raising prices. It's also worth noting that the defensive stock tends to underperform higher-growth industries like tech, which would likely soar in the event of a soft landing or quick rebound for the U.S. economy.

Still, P&G is almost sure to raise its dividend for a 67th consecutive year when the time comes for its annual hike in mid-April. That income stability is a valuable asset for investors to have in their portfolio as they approach what could be another difficult year for much of the market.

P&G offers a good balance of growth, income, and earnings power. These factors have made it a great long-term investment over many years, and should support market-beating returns again in 2023.