Soft-drink retailers are a classic defensive play. They're cheap treats for cash-strapped consumers, and because their revenues are based on volume rather than high prices, they have the ability to raise their revenues significantly with minor price changes. What's not to like?

Getting into the numbers
Who are the major soft-drink retailers and how do they stack up to one another?

Company

Market Cap
(in millions)

Revenue, LTM
(in millions)

Free Cash Flow, LTM (in millions)

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Coca-Cola
(NYSE: KO)

$121,005

$31,346

 $ 6,720.0

3.4%

****

PepsiCo
(NYSE: PEP)

$102,956

$44,337

 $ 5,199.0

3.1%

*****

Dr. Pepper Snapple
Group (NYSE: DPS)

$9,059

$5,519

 $ 1,380.0

2.7%

***

Hansen Natural
(Nasdaq: HANS)

$3,442

$1,137

 $   206.3

-

****

Cott (NYSE: COT)

$609

$1,592

$108.3

-

*

SkyPeople Fruit Juice (NYSE: SPU)

$113

$70

 $     0.5

-

*****

Jones Soda (Nasdaq: JSDA)

$48

$23

 $    (5.5)

-

**

Data from CapIQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and the Motley Fool CAPS database.

It's important to keep track of revenue, but free cash flow gives us a better sense of what the company is doing with that revenue -- and whether they'll have the funds to invest in the business later.

Coca-Cola is the 10-ton gorilla of the soft-drink industry. It's focused entirely on beverages, unlike PepsiCo, which has a thriving snacks business, and Warren Buffett famously reported that if you gave him $100 billion and asked him to take away Coke's soft-drink leadership, he'd give it back and say it couldn't be done.

Hansen Natural, on the other hand, has been a small-cap darling for its incredible outperformance over the last ten years.

Which soft-drink retailer do you like and why? Let us know in the comments.

Fool editor Julie Clarenbach doesn't own any of the companies mentioned here. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. Hansen Natural is a Rule Breakers selection. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Income Investor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on PepsiCo. The Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.