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What Keurig Green Mountain's Partnership With Campbell Soup Means for Investors

By Tamara Walsh - Sep 22, 2015 at 4:00PM

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Keurig Green Mountain hopes new soup pods will help boost sales of its hot system platform.

If you're a Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR.DL) shareholder, then you're probably hoping the company's new partnership with Campbell Soup (CPB -1.97%) will finally turn things around for the stock. After all, Keurig Green Mountain's stock is down more than 54% year-to-date. Shares are currently trading around $57 apiece, or near the low end of its 52-week range. The hope is that Campbell soup-branded pods can reinvigorate sales of Keurig Green Mountain's hot system machines, which have struggled lately.

Keurig's net sales fell as much as 5% during its latest quarter. Meanwhile, a cringe-worthy 26% drop in sales of the company's brewers and accessories underscored that decline. News on Sept. 9 that Keurig and Campbell's soup pods finally made it to market helped lift Keurig's stock, which is up nearly 18% in the past month. Yet investors shouldn't put too much emphasis on the Keurig and Campbell Soup rollout.

Two years in the making
Keurig customers can now make hot Campbell's soup in their Keurig Hot Brewing Systems. However, this isn't a new story, and it probably won't save Keurig from declining sales and shrinking margins. Campbell Soup and the K-cup creator first joined forces in 2013, when they agreed to create the potentially game changing fresh-brewed soup category. The companies had originally promised that the products would launch in 2014 and consist of three soup varieties.

Now, a year late and one soup flavor short, Keurig and Campbell have brought their vision to market. They're offering Homestyle Chicken Broth & Noodle Soup Mix and Southwest Style Chicken Broth & Noodle Soup Mix. This marks Keurig's first foray outside of beverages and into providing food products to be made in its brewers. However, don't ring the victory bell just yet. Investors need to remember that Keurig isn't the only one offering hot foods that can be made in its machines. In fact, General Mills launched its Nature's Valley brewer-based oatmeal last year for use in the Keurig system. Not being one of the first in the market for brewer-based foods means consumers have had ample time to develop a brand relationship with earlier products, in some cases with off-brand items that are cheaper than Keurig's upcoming Campbell soup offerings. 

Source: General Mills.

It's important to remember that Keurig Green Mountain doesn't reap any financial benefits from General Mills' K-cup oatmeal products since its K-cup brand patents expired in 2012, leaving the playing field open for competitors. There are also other off-brand names taking advantage of brewer-based food products today, such as "Kettle Kups," which currently sells three varieties of "homestyle soups designed to instantly work in all single-serve brewer machines." This is particularly important because Keurig makes the bulk of its revenue from sales of K-cup pods. In fact, pod sales accounted for as much as 84% of Keurig's total revenue in its most recent quarter.  

Source: Kettle Kups.

There is also pricing competition to keep in mind. For example, why would someone pay more than $16 for a six pack of Campbell soup Keurig K-cups when they can get a 24-pack of Ramen Noodles for $14. Ultimately, consumers may not want to pay such rich prices for a product that's hardly more convenient than heating up soup in the microwave.

Given these challenges, Keurig Green Mountain's partnership with Campbell Soup will likely mean little more than short-lived publicity for the stock. Moreover, shareholders shouldn't expect this to make a material difference in the company's revenue growth.

Rather, investors should keep an eye on Keurig's upcoming launch of its Keurig Kold platform.

A more promising venture
Keurig Green Mountain, together with Coca-Cola, will launch a Keurig cold at-home brewing system later this year that will cost between $299 and $369. The new platform will enable consumers to make cold carbonated beverages such as craft sodas, as well as juice drinks, sports drinks, and cocktails. Of course, the Keurig Kold will also let users create Coca-Cola branded beverages at home.

The real takeaway for investors, however, is that this new platform will expose Keurig Green Mountain to a much larger market. Cold beverage sales in the U.S. represent a $50 billion opportunity compared to just $10 billion for the hot beverage market.

To be clear, we are not merely talking about the soda or carbonated beverages market, but the cold drink market overall, as Keurig's new platform will be capable of making a variety of cold beverages including sodas, juices, and even alcoholic concoctions. Therefore, if you're a Keurig shareholder there is still hope the company can turn things around and reinvigorate sales.

However, don't expect its new Campbell Soup launch to move the needle in the near term.

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Stocks Mentioned

Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. Stock Quote
Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.
GMCR.DL
The Coca-Cola Company Stock Quote
The Coca-Cola Company
KO
$60.02 (-1.92%) $-1.18
General Mills, Inc. Stock Quote
General Mills, Inc.
GIS
$65.28 (-3.39%) $-2.29
Campbell Soup Company Stock Quote
Campbell Soup Company
CPB
$45.31 (-1.97%) $0.91

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