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Soda sales flat for Coke but other drinks on the rise

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Soda sales remain relatively flat for Coca-Cola Co., but price increases and sales of non-carbonated beverages are helping to make up the difference.

Coca-Cola’s fourth-quarter revenue and profit slipped as the company sold fewer drinks globally while the strong U.S. dollar and one-time items also undercut the performance.

But the company’s organic revenue, a figure used to measure the growth of its core business, rose 6% in the fourth quarter, compared to a year earlier, due primarily to price increases and sales of more lucrative items.

Coca-Cola said its total drink sales fell 1% in the fourth quarter. The company is grappling with a cultural shift toward healthy living that has undermined sales of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages.

That included a 2% decline in carbonated beverages for the quarter, while non-carbonated beverage sales rose 2%.

The earnings report is the second to last for company CEO Muhtar Kent, who recently announced he would relinquish the post as of May 1. James Quincey, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will take over as CEO, while Kent will remain chairman.

Quincey said on a conference call that the company would expand the availability of zero-sugar products and smaller packages, which have proven promising in recent quarters.

“Speed, flexibility and adaptation are paramount to success,” he said.

North America fourth-quarter drink sales rose 1%, aided by strong sales of Sprite and Fanta but weighed down by slumping Diet Coke. But the market’s revenue increased 8% during the quarter.

Overall, the company’s revenue fell 6% to $9.4 billion for the fourth quarter. The company said that included a 2% decline attributable to foreign exchange rates and a 10% decline attributable to corporate deals and one-time items, which included bottling refranchising efforts.

Coca-Cola’s net income fell 56% to $550 million. On a per-share basis, that equaled earnings of 13 cents, down from 28 cents a year earlier.

Revenue beat S&P Global Market Intelligence expectations of $9.1 billion for the period, while earnings per share expectations of 36 cents apparently did not include the effect of one-time items.

The company’s stock was down 1.9% to $41.21 at 11:28 a.m.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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