NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Shares of The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) - Get Report are lower by 0.27% to $40.34 in late afternoon trading on Thursday, as U.S. soda consumption declined 0.9% in 2014, marking the tenth straight yearly decline as more American's move away from soft drinks and toward healthier beverage choices, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The figures come from Beverage Digest, a trade publication and data service.

Coca-Cola's signature soft drink, Coke, stayed the top selling soda in the country last year, however Diet Coke fell to the number three spot.

Diet soda consumption has declined more sharply in the U.S. than full calorie sodas in each of the last four years, the Journal said, adding that consumers are showing a greater concern regarding the health effects of artificial, zero-calorie sweeteners.

The soda industry's 0.9% decline in volume last year was less steep than the 3% it fell in 2013, the Journal noted.

Separately, TheStreet Ratings team rates COCA-COLA CO as a Buy with a ratings score of B-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate COCA-COLA CO (KO) a BUY. This is driven by several positive factors, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its expanding profit margins, reasonable valuation levels and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • Regardless of the drop in revenue, the company managed to outperform against the industry average of 3.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly dropped by 1.5%. Weakness in the company's revenue seems to have hurt the bottom line, decreasing earnings per share.
  • The gross profit margin for COCA-COLA CO is rather high; currently it is at 64.51%. Regardless of KO's high profit margin, it has managed to decrease from the same period last year. Despite the mixed results of the gross profit margin, the net profit margin of 7.08% trails the industry average.
  • COCA-COLA CO has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past two years. However, we anticipate this trend to reverse over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, COCA-COLA CO reported lower earnings of $1.59 versus $1.90 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.99 versus $1.59).
  • The company's current return on equity has slightly decreased from the same quarter one year prior. This implies a minor weakness in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Beverages industry and the overall market, COCA-COLA CO's return on equity exceeds that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: KO Ratings Report