Apr 21, 2021 (IAM Newswire via COMTEX) -- Coca-Cola’s /zigman2/quotes/209159848/composite KO +0.40% business was hit extra hard during the COVID-19 pandemic as people avoided gatherings with events being cancelled across the globe. As its business model is heavily reliant on these point-of-sale drinks, the pandemic translated into sharp volume drops for fiscal 2020 while peers like PepsiCo /zigman2/quotes/208744353/composite PEP +0.15% enjoyed booming demand at supermarkets and warehouse retailers. However, on Monday, the beverage giant showed it rebounded by beating on earnings with demand in March hitting pre-pandemic levels.
Net sales rose 5% as they amounted to $9.02 billion, exceeding estimates of $8.6 billion. Organic revenues grew 6%, but unit case volume was flat compared to a year earlier. Demand improved every month of the quarter, driven by markets like China where uncertainty concerns around the virus eased.
Coca Cola reported a net income of $2.25 billion, or 52 cents per share. This is a drop compared to last year's $2.78 billion, or 64 cents per share. Excluding items, earnings amounted to 55 cents per share, exceeding the 50 cents per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
Coca Cola has done a great job focusing on what it can control
Through the pandemic, executives slashed costs by finding ways to cut supply chain, marketing, production and packaging expenses, leading to rising profitability even as peer PepsiCo’s margins fell.
At the beginning of the year, management said the first quarter would be the hardest of the year, but that the scale of the recovery that follows would depend on big variables like the pace of vaccine distribution.
Quarterly demand was unchanged from a year earlier as North America and Western Europe take longer to recover from the pandemic but global unit case volume in March returned to 2019 levels.
While the central North American business is still under pressure, growth in India, China and Latin America managed to offset those declines. Nutrition, juice, dairy and plant-based beverage segment experienced a 3% volume growth as it was fueled by higher demand in China and India. Hydration, sports, coffee and tea segment was the hardest hit with volumes shrinking 11%. The coffee business declined 21% as Costa cafeswere heavily impacted by the lockdowns. The hydration category that includes Dasani and Smartwater reported volume declines of 12% as consumers across the globe bought less single-use water bottles. Demand for tea products fell 6%, whereas sports drinks saw volume decline slightly by 1%.
Uncertainty still remains
Back in February, management stated that the giant has positioning itself to come out of the crisis targeting faster growth and higher margins compared to its pre-pandemic figures.
The company restated its full-year forecast, with organic revenue growth expected in high single digits and adjusted earnings growth expected in the range between high single digits to low double digits. India and parts of Europe are reintroducing lockdowns due to spikes in new Covid-19 cases, while Latin America and Africa are expecting slower vaccine distribution and embracing for new waves. While vaccinations are rising in many countries such as the U.S., U.K., the flip side is there's actually a new high in terms of cases as the weekly number of new cases has just hit an all-time peak.
Although April has started well for Coke, the looming risk of new lockdowns threatens to reverse that progress.
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