Global snack and beverage producer PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) posted encouraging results for its fiscal-2009 third quarter. But despite sequential improvement, the company will need heavy investment to align its products with shifting consumer trends.

Revenue came in light, at $11.08 billion, a 1.5% decline from the year-ago period and slightly below analyst expectations. However, a 10% year-over-year gain in earnings per share -- $1.09 versus $0.99 -- beat expectations, although results were helped by a lower tax rate. Excluding mark-to-market and one-time items in both periods, EPS rose 2%. Those who prefer to pour from the currency-neutral tap can cite a more respectable 8% increase.

Total company volume, meanwhile, edged up 1%, with snacks doing substantially better than beverages (up 2% and 0.5%, respectively). Yet with both categories in the black, PepsiCo's volume improved on the previous quarter's results.

Segment performance was varied, deserving a line-by-line read. Among the highlights, I have to flag Americas Beverages, where North American net revenue fell 7% on a 6% drop in volume. At 25% of 2008 net revenue, this segment -- and its poor performance -- represents a big challenge for PepsiCo. Commenting on the overall marketplace environment, CEO Indra Nooyi told conference call listeners:

Now, unfortunately in beverages versus foods, there is a free alternative called tap water, and so one has to be very cognizant of that as we think about the outlook for a beverage business.

The company's Gatorade brand -- its second-biggest-selling beverage by volume -- is the ongoing subject of a brand transformation following declines in market share and volume in the first half of the year. Volumes for Gatorade did improve sequentially, but I still question whether the new "G" can be a long-term success.

On a positive note, PepsiCo's U.S. carbonated soft-drinks portfolio captured the No. 1 volume and market-share positions in the quarter. However, that's in "measured channels," which excludes sales from Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) and some other retailing locations. In other words, private-label beverage producer Cott (NYSE:COT) could've put up a better fight than those numbers suggest.

So what's PepsiCo's growth strategy going forward? In short, it's focusing on getting the value equation right, and providing products that offer functional health and wellness benefits. In light of ongoing consumer trends, both approaches appear spot-on.

The company issued 2010 guidance of 11% to 13% EPS growth in constant currency, on top of a mid-to-high single-digit increase for 2009. Even so, management called 2010 a year to invest. Plans include productivity investments in SAP's (NYSE:SAP) enterprise software, expansion into emerging markets, and ample R&D spending to achieve "science based differentiation" in healthy products.

I recently expressed my preference for Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) ahead of PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple (NYSE:DPS). But for those investors who crave snacks with their drinks, and are willing to tolerate a tough slog in the North American business, PepsiCo seems to be making many of the right moves. Cheers to that.

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Fool contributor Mike Pienciak owns shares of Coca-Cola but holds no beneficial interest in any other company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.