If you own shares of beverage giant Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), then the media discussions about the decline in sales of carbonated sodas brought on by consumers' preferences for healthier beverages such as juice, tea, and water may have you wanting to sell your shares and head for the hills. Not so fast. You should hold your shares for the long term instead. Here's why.
Robust still beverage growth
While it's true that sparkling beverage volume declined 1% in Coca-Cola's most recent quarter, still volume saved the day with an 8% expansion, pushing overall volume into positive territory at 2%. Still beverages showed volume expansion in each of Coca-Cola's geographic segments that exceeded that of sparkling beverages. Juice and tea volume saw increases of 3% and 4%, respectively, in the most recent quarter. Specific items giving these product lines a boost include Simply Orange and Minute Maid Pulpy, which is making a big splash in China.
New marketing, products, and channels
Coca-Cola understands its weaknesses in areas such as sparkling beverages. As a result, company executives want to increase investment in marketing in an effort to boost sparkling brands. As an example, in the most recent earnings call, Coca-Cola highlighted the FIFA World Cup campaign, where the trophy tour gives the company global marketing exposure. Moreover, Coca-Cola likes the positive effect that its marketing efforts have had on its North American sparkling portfolio. Executives promised new channels such as a home carbonation system and new products such as sparkling juices and eventually soda with natural sweeteners. Coca-Cola's Freestyle machine also drives expanded sales according to its latest earnings call.
It's difficult to believe, but there are people in some parts of the world that don't regularly drink Coca-Cola. In the last earnings call, CEO Muhtar Kent had this to say about the new emerging global middle class:
Globally, consumer populations are growing, purchasing power is increasing and spreading to a new middle class. Urbanization continues to intensify and lifestyles and consumer preferences are changing in ways that significantly favor our expanding and evolving beverage portfolio. We have an unparalleled reach with leading global brands and a bottling system that is investing for sustainable growth.
With that said, Coca-Cola saw its most significant gains in the emerging markets in the most recent quarter. China and India yielded volume increases of 12% and 6%, respectively, during that time.
Healthy dividend yields
Coca-Cola investors can collect dividends while waiting for its other initiatives to pay off. In 2013 Coca-Cola paid out 61% of its free cash flow in dividends. Currently, the company pays shareholders $1.22 per share per year and yields 3%.
Kick back and wait
Coca-Cola, guided by its 2020 vision of doubling its revenue over its 2009 base, will do what it takes to ensure that happens. Patient investors need to hold tight to see Coca-Cola's initiatives pay off. Short-term whims like panic-selling based on news about the demise of carbonated beverages will leave you out in the cold when it comes to future dividend payments and possible capital gains.