A helpful threat
For those of you keeping track, shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters are currently flying high after strong K-Cup sales drove a massive quarterly beat on both its top and bottom lines. In fact, considering Green Mountain Coffee's nearly $11 billion market capitalization puts it at more than nine times the size of SodaStream, you can bet the smaller company wouldn't mind replicating even a fraction of that success.
But we also shouldn't forget that Green Mountain itself applied for a curious trademark back in July, which indicated the rising coffee giant could be planning an at-home carbonation system of its own. In the meantime, though, SodaStream just announced something that could give it an even bigger headstart.
Hopeful investors, meet SodaStream Caps, the at-home carbonation specialist's first ever single-use flavor capsules.
And before you go thinking the throwaway capsules are a hypocritical move from a supposedly environmentally friendly business, note that they're made from 100% recyclable materials.
Of course, the press release did also come with a bit of sensationalism, with CEO Daniel Birnbaum boasting Caps makes his product "even easier and more fun," and that "once you use SodaStream Caps, you'll never look back."
Then again, I'm betting SodaStream investors would rather not look back at the recent past anyway: Three weeks ago, shares of SodaStream plummeted more than 10% after the company posted quarterly results.
But that's not to say its numbers were bad. After all, SodaStream's overall revenue grew 29% year over year to $144.6 million, falling just barely short of analysts' expectations of $145.2 million. What's more, SodaStream's earnings of $0.76 per share actually beat estimates by $0.04. And there was nothing particularly alarming about SodaStream's latest full-year 2013 guidance, which calls for revenue and adjusted net income to both rise 30% over 2012.
However, as fellow Fool Rick Munarriz pointed out, SodaStream's underlying numbers sparked some concerns. Specifically, while revenue growth for SodaStream's actual soda makers and CO2 canisters remained healthy at 27% and 34%, respectively, flavor sales have slowed significantly, increasing only 7% over last year -- this despite SodaStream's various big-name partners including Kraft (with its popular Country Time Lemonade), Campbell, and Ocean Spray Cranberries.
Now that doesn't mean SodaStream's razor-and-blades-style business is in dire straits. While it doesn't make much money from sales of the actual machines, its high-margin CO2 business remains as lucrative as ever. That said, SodaStream would love to run up the score by tacking on higher-margin flavor sales to your tab as well, and SodaStream Caps is an obvious effort to do so.
And to Birnbaum's credit, I have to admit it is pretty fun to watch:
Will it work? Maybe, but it'll all come down to the core motivations of SodaStream's customers.
If most consumers are buying the systems primarily for unflavored club soda, this might not change a thing. However, it could also be intriguing enough to get customers to try something new without dedicating themselves to a larger bottle of flavoring, while at the same time taking the guesswork out of just how much to put in.
As it stands, I think this is a solid step in the right direction for SodaStream. With shares currently trading at only 24 times last year's earnings and less than 17 times next year's estimates -- which is, for the record, lower than the forward P/E ratios of both Coke and Pepsi right now -- I think SodaStream stock looks like an absolute bargain.