Updated from 8:10 a.m. EDT.
PepsiCo ( PEP) had some juice behind its first-quarter earnings, surprisingly thanks to the U.S. consumer.
The beverage and snacks giant Monday reported total revenue fell 3% year over year to $11.9 billion, matching Wall Street forecasts. Excluding the impact of the strong U.S. dollar, which hurt sales by 4.5 percentage points, sales rose 3.5%. Earnings per share, excluding one-time items, came in at 89 cents, topping estimates for 81 cents.
As was the case for most of 2015, PepsiCo's bottom line continued to benefit from a tame inflationary environment for raw materials, cost-cutting efforts, share repurchases and a consumer shift toward healthier snacks and beverages.
"We are especially impressed with the company's outstanding margin expansion and expect shares to trade higher this morning barring any negative commentary on the 8 a.m ET conference call," said Jim Cramer and Jack Mohr of Action Alerts PLUS, which own PepsiCo.
Frito-Lay North America saw organic revenue and operating profit increase 4% and 10%, respectively. Meantime, the North America beverage business was able to overcome sluggish soda sales and deliver respective revenue and profit increases of 2% and 7%, respectively, vs. the prior year.
Despite weak retail sales in the U.S. and profit warnings from retailers such as Gap ( GPS) so far this year, PepsiCo said the U.S. consumer was a bright spot in the first quarter.
"We are looking at the U.S. consumer pretty positively, I always look at convenience stores which tell me what's happening with a broad base of consumers -- convenience store sales were up about 5% as a category and we gained market share," said PepsiCo Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston in an interview with TheStreet. Johnston added, "So at least on the level of everyday treats that are part of people's lives, after they go to the gas pump and there are a few more dollars left in their pockets perhaps than a year ago, they are tending to pick up a healthy snack or an indulgent snack."
Surprising resilience on the part of the U.S. consumer may be needed this year to help counteract more tepid economic growth around the world. "There are two challenging places around the world right now in particular, one is South America, which is going through its ups and downs -- when I say South America I am not saying Mexico which is doing quite well -- but the balance of South America is certainly facing some challenges," said Johnston, He added, "The second area where things are a bit more challenging is Eastern Europe, in particular Russia."
Shares rose 0.5% to $104.30 in trading on Monday.
The company reiterated its full-year earnings outlook due to global growth concerns, despite a strong start to the year. For 2016, PepsiCo continues to see earnings of $4.66 a share.
"The company's EPS guidance remains unchanged, although it is worth noting that PepsiCo has a track record of beating earnings per share in the first quarter but maintaining underlying guidance for the year, followed by a beat and raise in the second quarter, a beat in the third quarter and then reporting in line for the fourth quarter," Cramer and Mohr said.
PepsiCo maintained several other key targets as well. This year, PepsiCo is targeting $3 billion in repurchases. Over the past three and 10 years, it has returned more than $13 billion and $35 billion, respectively, to shareholders in the form of share repurchases. Last year, it bought back about $5 billion in stock. The company spent $619 million to repurchase its stock, reducing shares outstanding by 2.9% year over year.
Further, it anticipates $1 billion in cost savings this year as it works toward a goal of hitting a $5 billion in savings by 2019.
PepsiCo is a holding in Action Alerts PLUS.