On Thursday, the beverage giant reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.06 a share, in line with Wall Street forecasts. Total revenue fell 7% year over year to $18.6 billion, narrowly surpassing estimates for $18.5 billion. Excluding the impact of the stronger U.S. dollar, PepsiCo's revenue rose 4%. Gross profit margins surged 165 basis points, as PepsiCo benefited from lower costs for oil and several agricultural commodities, as well as roughly $1 billion in cost savings taken in 2015.
"Our portfolio has been strategically designed to weather the current macroeconomic challenges -- our results reflect the balance of our brand portfolio, geographic footprint, consistent marketplace execution and a relentless focus on productivity," said PepsiCo chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi in a statement.
The standout for the quarter was PepsiCo's Frito Lay North America division, where organic revenue and operating profits rose 3% and 6%, respectively. The snack segment's volume increased by 1%. Organic revenue excludes the impact of currency fluctuations, acquisitions and one-time items.
The North American beverage business saw organic volume rise 1%, cooling from 3% growth in the third quarter. Organic revenue for the segment gained 3%, with operating profits improving by a similar amount. PepsiCo pointed out that it was the segment's best profit performance in three years, helped by a combination of cheaper commodities, cost savings and pricing benefits from smaller can sizes.
PepsiCo's rival Coca-Cola (KO) managed to improve its volume performance in its U.S. beverage business in the fourth quarter. Coke's overall volume in its North American beverage segment increased 3%, driven by Coke Zero, Sprite, Fanta, juice, tea and packaged water. The company highlighted a decline in volume for Diet Coke. Still, Coke's beverage volume in North America only rose by 1% in the third quarter.
PepsiCo vice chairman and CFO Hugh Johnston said in an interview with TheStreet, "If we look narrowly at colas, the answer is yes" -- the company has lost a little market share. "But the strategy of the business is to manage the overall liquid refreshment beverage category, not just one sub-segment called colas," he said. "Obviously for our competitor, that is by far the biggest piece of their business, and they tend to spend a lot of time on that."
Organic revenue for PepsiCo's Quaker Foods North America division rose 1%, compared to 2% growth in the previous quarter. Organic volume fell 2% for the segment, while operating profits were unchanged.
Despite slowing growth globally, the company capped off a year in which organic revenue and earnings rose by 5% and 10%, respectively. In 2016, PepsiCo expects earnings of $4.66 a share, up about 1.9% year over year. Wall Street estimates PepsiCo will earn $4.76 a share this year.
The company anticipates cutting another $1 billion in costs as part of a plan to slash about $5 billion in total costs through 2019. Executives also decided to lift the dividend by 7.1%.
Johnston went onto hint at the potential for several new, important product releases in 2016.
"In terms of organic Gatorade, there is obviously a consumer segment out there that is interested in the product and excited about that idea. And we will continue to look into that and frankly see if the market is big enough to generate a product offering that we can scale up."
Gatorade, which PepsiCo acquired as part of its $13.4 billion acquisition of Quaker Oats in 2000, still holds a roughly 75% share of the sports drink market.
An organic version could help Gatorade fend off upstart sports drink brands such as Body Armor.
Johnston also hinted that PepsiCo might get back into the red-hot sparkling water space.
"We have been in the sparkling water business in the past, and we do bottle a lot of Schweppes sparkling water, so we like the category and we like bubbles generally speaking, especially ones with low sugar attached. I would expect us to continue to experiment not just with sparkling water, but with lots of low calorie offerings that have bubbles."
According to Beverage Digest, sparkling water volumes surged 28.6% in 2015, led by demand for new flavored options from Schweppes, Perrier, Poland Spring and Coca-Cola's Aquafina brand.