NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Pepsi (PEP) - Get Report vs. Coke (KO) - Get Report: It's an age-old battle -- not just among consumers deciding which of the two leading colas they prefer, but among the companies themselves.

Recently, Pepsi soda moved ahead of Diet Coke to become the No. 2 soda in the U.S. (Coca-Cola is still tops). PepsiCo just landed another blow to Coca-Cola by inking a sponsorship deal with the National Basketball Association, which had been until then a Coke partner. The NBA and Coca-Cola had maintained a sponsorship agreement from 1986 until now. PepsiCo's agreement with the NBA will focus around the promotion of the Mountain Dew, Doritos, Ruffles, Brisk, and Aquafina brands rather than the Pepsi soda brand.

Given the new news and that Coca-Cola is reporting earnings Wednesday, April 22 before the market opens, which should you buy right now? We take a closer look.

Pepsi vs. Coke

PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are the two largest corporations in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Coca-Cola has a market cap of $178 billion, while PepsiCo has a market cap of $142 billion. Coca-Cola focuses exclusively on beverages, while PepsiCo sells both beverages and food products.

Both companies sell much more than soda. The table below shows the non-carbonated brands that each company sells that generate more than $1 billion a year in sales. For brands that U.S. consumers are likely unfamiliar with, the country or region where the product generates the majority of its sales is shown. In total, Coca-Cola has 20 $1 billion dollar brands (including carbonated beverages) and PepsiCo has 22 $1 billion dollar brands (including carbonated beverages).



Simply Juices

Lay's Potato Chips

Minute Maid


Minute Maid Pulpy (China)






Gold Peak Tea


Vitamin Water


Georgia Coffee (Japan)


Del Valle Juices (Latin America)


Aquarius (Japan)


Bonaqua (Russia & others)


Ayataka (Japan)


I LOHAS (Japan)

Walker's Potato Chips

Fuze Tea

Starbucks RTD Beverages

Both companies have grown at around 9% a year over the last decade. PepsiCo currently has a dividend yield of 2.7% while Coca-Cola has a 3.2% dividend yield. Further, both companies' strong brand portfolios provide stable cash flows which in turn gives both stocks extremely low price volatility. These two high-quality stocks with consistent growth and solid dividend yields are both favorites of The 8 Rules of Dividend Investing.

2014 Results

PepsiCo grew constant-currency adjusted earnings-per-share 9% in 2014. Coca-Cola grew constant-currency adjusted earnings-per share 7.9% in 2014. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola focused on similar initiatives in 2014: running more efficient operations; and growing in developing and emerging markets. PepsiCo has the edge over Coca-Cola because of its Frito-Lay chips brands. The company's chips brands continue to see volume increases in stagnating developed markets.

This growth is in contrast to trends in drinks. Consumers are slowly switching from unhealthy sodas to healthier alternatives. For example, a consumer may switch from a Coca-Cola soda every morning to an Honest Tea. Either way, you are still buying from the same company. Interestingly, consumers have not yet applied the health logic that is causing soda sales to stagnate to chip brands. PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division grew volume 2% in North America in 2014.

PepsiCo's share price has advanced 17% over the last 12 months versus 8% for Coca-Cola. For comparison, the S&P 500 gained about 16% over the same time period. 

2015 Outlook

Coca-Cola expects mid-single digit constant-currency earnings-per-share growth in 2015, somewhere in the 4% to 7% range. Adding in the company's dividend yield of over 3%, shareholders can expect total returns of between 7% and 10% from Coca-Cola in 2015 if the company's price-to-earnings ratio remains unchanged.

PepsiCo is targeting 7% constant-currency earnings-per-share growth in 2015. Including the company's 2.7% dividend yield, PepsiCo shareholders can expect a total return of somewhere around 9% to 10% in 2015 assuming the company's price-to-earnings ratio remains unchanged.


PepsiCo currently has a price-to-earnings ratio of 22.4 while Coca-Cola has a price-to-earnings ratio of 25.6. Both companies have a higher price-to-earnings ratio than the S&P 500, which currently trades at a ratio of 20.4. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are both extremely high quality businesses and should likely trade at a slight premium to the overall S&P 500 due to their lower risk.

Pepsi or Coke? Slight Edge to Pepsi

PepsiCo grew earnings-per-share faster than Coca-Cola in 2014. PepsiCo is projected to grow faster than Coca-Cola in 2015 as well. Additionally, PepsiCo has a lower price-to-earnings ratio than Coca-Cola.

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are Dividend Aristocrats. Coca-Cola has increased its dividend payments for 52 consecutive years, while PepsiCo has increased its dividend payments for 43 consecutive years. Both companies have a long history of rewarding shareholders with rising earnings-per-share and increasing dividend payments each year. PepsiCo appears to be the better long-term investment at this time thanks to slightly faster growth in recent history and its new deal with the NBA. With that said, both businesses will likely continue to reward shareholders for years to come.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had a position in PEP.