PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) went back to the future Tuesday when it purchased its top two bottlers, Pepsi Bottling Group (NYSE:PBG) and PepsiAmericas (NYSE:PAS). It had already owned stakes in both.

The bottlers have performed solidly in the past decade: Pepsi Bottling Group's stock is up nearly 300% since its IPO in 1999, while PepsiAmericas has risen 88% since then. Not bad, considering that Papa Pepsi's stock has jumped only 81% in the same time.

Back in 1999, Pepsi's strategy was to focus on its "high margin" soft drink and snack food businesses, and it decided to drop a bottling business that delivered $6.8 billion in annual revenue but was more cash-intensive. Now Pepsi plans to spend $7.8 billion on the buyback, which isn't chump change for anyone except maybe Warren Buffett, who favors key competitor Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) anyway.

It's not a huge surprise that PepsiCo came crawling back to these bottlers, especially considering the 9.2% decline in operating profit from its Americas' beverage business in the latest quarter. As a whole, PepsiCo's beverage group appears to be in flux, with the North American beverage marketing leader resigning last week and the company struggling through rebranding efforts for both Gatorade and Tropicana juice.

PepsiCo isn't alone here: Rival Coca-Cola has reported similarly flat results, and folks are moving toward healthier drinks. On top of changing consumer tastes, private labels are becoming more palatable as the economy fizzles. Private-label producer Cott (NYSE:COT) is trying to work its way into the mix, but it is also struggling as Americans move away from carbonated beverages.

As PepsiCo has found out the hard way, a lot can change in 10 years. PepsiCo says that buying back the bottlers will allow the company to speed products' time to market while cutting costs. Certainly, the synergies will help PepsiCo in the short term.

Longer-term, though, PepsiCo will have to figure out how to decide what its strategy really is. The company has always said its core strengths are marketing and innovation. Now PepsiCo's going back to making and distributing its products, too. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but does the move to more cash-intensive businesses indicate that PepsiCo sees few lucrative investment opportunities out there?

I'll be interested to see what this integration looks like, especially considering that Pepsi Bottling Group is now a Fortune 200 company and PepsiAmericas is not too far out of the Fortune 500. The bottlers have been successful on their own, especially Pepsi Bottling Group, which has grown its global operations substantially during its 10 years of independence. In fact, Pepsi Bottling makes and distributes Dr Pepper for the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (NYSE:DPS). Now that PepsiCo's in charge again, we shall see if Pepsi Bottling and PepsiAmericas can go back to being a small fish in a big sea.

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PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Coca-Cola is also an Inside Value selection. Thirsting for more investing advice? Give The Motley Fool's newsletters a try via the 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Colleen Paulson does not hold positions in companies mentioned above. The Fool's disclosure policy is always the real thing.