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Coke and Pepsi Struggle as One Beverage Giant Faces More Trouble

by Lucas Finis

The decades-long rivalry between beverage titans Coca-Cola and PepsiCo continues, but recent earnings reports reveal both companies face mounting struggles as consumer preferences evolve. However, Coca-Cola is better weathering industry headwinds thanks to strategic advantages in pricing, branding, and geographic diversity.

In their latest quarterly results, Coca-Cola edged out PepsiCo by delivering 2% volume growth globally compared to flat volume for Pepsi’s beverages. But within their core North American market, the divergence was more stark – Coke’s volume held steady while Pepsi’s plunged 6%.

Several factors explain Coca-Cola’s current edge. Most notably, Coke continued aggressively raising prices over the past year while Pepsi paused hikes. Coke’s disciplined passthrough of higher costs boosted revenue despite some volume declines.

By contrast, Pepsi is promoting more profitless discounts to sustain market share, dragging performance. The company’s reputed snack division around Cheetos and Doritos also slowed as consumers opted for cheaper alternatives.


Coca-Cola’s portfolio of brands seems more resilient than Pepsi’s offerings. While Pepsi relies heavily on its namesake cola and Mountain Dew, Coke boasts a more diversified lineup including Minute Maid, Dasani, Sprite, and others.

Geography is another key differentiator – Coke earns over 60% of revenue internationally compared to just 40% for Pepsi. These global markets continue driving growth for Coca-Cola while Pepsi leans more US-centric.

Importantly, Coke coordinates independent bottling partners abroad who tailor products and marketing locally. This decentralized approach gives regional autonomy compared to Pepsi’s centralized strategy.

The overall beverage industry faces secular headwinds as consumers shift away from sodas toward options perceived as healthier. But Coke’s early moves to diversify into water, juices, and tea have partially buffered its portfolio.

Still, Coke’s volumes have gradually declined over the past decade, revealing an imperfect but still enviable ability to innovate and build brands. Its marketing investments consistently link its trademark beverages to happiness across cultures.

Both companies acknowledge they are unlikely to rekindle significant beverage volume growth in developed markets anytime soon. But Coca-Cola’s savvy globalization and early diversification have given it an edge as conditions toughen.

Going forward, Pepsi will need to wring more profit from brands other than its namesake cola and Mountain Dew to boost margins. Tightening cost controls and supply chain optimization will grow more urgent if consumer budgets keep tightening.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola must continue judiciously elevating pricing and mix to sustain revenue despite modest volume declines in North America and Europe. Leaning on operational excellence will help Coke react nimbly to fast-changing consumer sentiment.

The path ahead remains challenging for beverage incumbents as tastes evolve. But Coca-Cola’s advantages make it better positioned to adapt, while Pepsi has more work ahead to shore up weaknesses and build leverage to withstand intensifying competition.

Though its lead has narrowed, Coke’s brand equity, geographic reach, and operational savvy continue to give it the upper hand. But in fast-moving consumer product categories, sustaining an edge demands unrelenting innovation in tandem with flawless execution.

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