The soda wars between The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) continue. Both companies keep battling it out for sparkling beverage supremacy. But while Coca-Cola and PepsiCo might seem like identical companies, there are some important differences emerging that could help potential investors decide between them.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo still pay solid dividends and raise their payouts on an annual basis, but there are some notable differences in their recent dividend activity that could make one stock the better pick for dividend enthusiasts.

Read on to discover why one company might have the edge in this battle of twin dividend giants.

How Coca-Cola and PepsiCo stack up
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have long been depended upon for steady dividends and rock-solid financial performance. Indeed, they're both highly profitable businesses backed by world-class brands. The end result has been a remarkable track record of success for both companies, and they've each shared their successes with shareholders for many years.

Here's how Coca-Cola and Pepsi compare when it comes to their dividend payouts:

 

Current Dividend Yield

5-Year Dividend CAGR

Years of Consecutive Dividend Increases

PepsiCo

2.8%

8%

42

Coca-Cola

2.9%

8%

52

As you can see, it seems PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are nearly identical. They offer similar yields, and have raised their payouts by similar percentages over the past several years. However, there are differences appearing more recently.

PepsiCo's most recent dividend increase was a very satisfactory 15%, significantly higher than Coca-Cola's nearly 9% dividend increase. Much of this is due to the success PepsiCo is having in the food business. PepsiCo's beverage unit achieved just 1% organic revenue growth in the Americas last quarter, but the company's Americas foods business put up 4% organic revenue growth.

Coca-Cola's growth might leave income investors hungry
One of the main reasons for Coca-Cola's lagging behind PepsiCo in some key dividend metrics lately has to do with Coca-Cola's one-sided business model. PepsiCo expanding significantly into food may not seem like a significant edge, but case volumes of sparkling beverages are stagnating, particularly in developed economies like North America.

PepsiCo's food business is the much higher-growing half of the company. In fact, the relative success of PepsiCo's food segment compared to its beverage unit was the focus of a series of calls from activist investor Nelson Peltz to split up the company. PepsiCo resisted these calls, knowing full well how important the foods business is to the overall company. PepsiCo is nearly evenly split between food and beverage, meaning it needs to keep the food business to do the heavy lifting while beverages continue to flatline.

Coca-Cola doesn't enjoy the benefit of a split business. It's still nearly entirely reliant on sparkling beverages. To be sure, Coca-Cola does offer bottled water and other non-sparkling beverages, but the company still derives the vast majority of its sales from its flagship Coke and Diet Coke brands.

The difference is starting to become clear. Coca-Cola generated 6% constant-currency earnings-per-share growth last quarter, while PepsiCo's core EPS growth clocked in at 9%. In response to sluggish growth in sparkling beverages, Coca-Cola announced it took a 16.7% stake in energy drink giant Monster Beverage Corporation.

While this seems like an exciting partnership, joining forces with Monster doesn't clear up the core consumer issues that are currently weighing on Coca-Cola. As consumers increasingly opt for healthier beverages, they might be just as likely to shy away from energy drinks as sugary sodas. As a result, it's far from guaranteed that Coca-Cola's strategy will rejuvenate growth.

Dividend winner: PepsiCo
PepsiCo has built a large food business that is doing very well right now. It's true that some of PepsiCo's food brands don't exactly carry a sterling reputation, but it does have some healthier brands, like Quaker. And, the old adage applies: You can't argue with results. PepsiCo's food business is putting up much better results than its beverages unit, and that explains why it was able to pass along a much better dividend increases than Coca-Cola this year.

While both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are strong companies, the future looks brighter for PepsiCo and its dividend.

Bob Ciura owns shares of PepsiCo. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.