A Coca-Cola Stock Primer

The Coca-Cola Company (KO) is a popular first stock purchase for many investors, thanks to the familiarity of its namesake cola. Coke is iconic: it's a part of American history and has been an industry leader for 133 years. Created by a pharmacist in 1886 in Atlanta, Coca-Cola quickly became a popular beverage across the country. Today's Coca-Cola Company reaches far beyond its signature carbonated beverage. In recent decades, Coca-Cola has turned to acquisitions for growth and diversification, becoming a nonalcoholic beverage conglomerate that now owns, licenses and markets more than 500 beverage brands. Many of Coca-Cola's non-soda brands have been key drivers of its growth, and several now exceed $1 billion in annual revenue.

Coca-Cola Leadership

As of May 2019, the Coca-Cola Company is led by James Quincey (Chairman and CEO), Brian Smith (President and COO), Lisa Chang (Chief People Officer and Senior Vice President), Francisco Crespo Benítez (Senior Vice President and Chief Growth Officer) and Bernhard Goepelt (Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief Legal Counsel).

Coca-Cola consistently seeks to explore new markets. In the first months of 2019, for instance, the company completed an acquisition of Costa coffee and is preparing to roll out a new line of coffee-based beverages.

Coca-Cola's Revenue Growth

According to Coca-Cola's 2018 Annual Report, the company posted a net operating revenue of $31.86 billion for 2018. This marks a decline from $35.41 billion for 2017. However, operating income of $8.7 billion increased slightly from $7.6 billion for the year prior. In spite of the decline in revenue, Coca-Cola is still the world's largest nonalcoholic beverage company and producer of concentrates, syrups and related products.

Below, we'll take a closer look at some of the Coca-Cola Company's most important brands and acquisitions over the years.

1. Dasani

FAST FACT: The Dasani brand was launched in 1999.

Coca-Cola does a fabulous job of acquiring and building top non-soda brands. These products also have more room to grow than the typical, stagnant soda products. Dasani is the highest selling bottled water in the U.S., yet Coke held only 7.4% overall market share as of 2015. Bottled water products have seen consistent increases in popularity among consumers across the U.S., indicating that Dasani and other related brands have plenty of room for growth. As the market for sparkling water products has grown considerably in recent years, Coca-Cola has aimed to position Dasani to take advantage of shifting consumer trends.

2. Minute Maid

FAST FACT: Minute Maid was launched in 1945 in Texas.

Perhaps no brand has been as important to Coke as the Minute Maid Corporation. It was the first acquisition made by The Coca-Cola Company when it was purchased in 1960, and it established Coca-Cola as a total beverage company. Coca-Cola's acquisition strategy and multi-brand strategy wouldn’t exist if not for Minute Maid. At the very least, Minute Maid's success has paved the way for other billion-dollar juice brands, which, in addition to subsidiaries like Simply, include international fast-growers Minute Maid Pulpy and Del Valle. Although the Coca-Cola Company does not provide revenue data broken down by brand, Minute Maid is likely among the top two sellers of orange juice in the United States, with annual revenue of well over $1 billion for many years.

3. Energy Brands

Also known as Glacéau, Energy Brands has been one of Coca-Cola's most successful subsidiaries. The company was founded in 1996 and acquired by Coca-Cola in 2007 in a cash deal valued at approximately $4.1 billion. Although Energy Brands has released little in the way of sales and revenue information, it is reported that the company generated annual sales revenue of $350 million in 2006. Following the acquisition in 2007, the Coca-Cola Company shifted production of its popular Powerade line of products to Energy Brands.

Two of the largest and most successful product lines in the Energy Brands line-up are VitaminWater (typically stylized as "Vitaminwater") and SmartWater. Both of these product lines have marketed themselves as healthier alternatives to traditional soda products in an attempt to court an increasingly health-conscious consumer base.

4. Costa Coffee

FAST FACT: Costa Coffee is one of the Coca-Cola Company's most expensive acquisitions.

One of the most recent additions to the Coca-Cola Company's lineup is Costa Coffee, the British coffee chain founded in 1971. The company was most recently owned by Whitbread until it was sold to Coca-Cola for $5.1 billion in January of 2019. Costa is the second-largest chain of coffee shops in the world. In acquiring Costa, Coca-Cola has the potential to make tremendous gains in the growing coffee industry, particularly in international markets where the brand already enjoys a strong position.

5. Fuze Beverage

FAST FACT: the Coca-Cola Company bought Fuze in 2007 for a deal reported to be worth up to $250 million.

Founded in Northern California in 2000, Fuze has grown into a nationwide brand which sells teas and non-carbonated fruit juice drinks. When Coca-Cola purchased Fuze in 2007, it was seen as an important move in the direction of health-conscious beverage products. Consumers looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other additives in traditional soda products may be more inclined to select Fuze products.

Recent Acquisitions and Acquisition Strategy

Costa Coffee was Coca-Cola's most prominent recent acquisition, but the company is always looking to expand its offerings through new subsidiaries and brands. With more than 500 brand lines, Coca-Cola exerts dominance in markets around the world. Indeed, consumers in one region may not even be aware of hugely successful lines of products which are localized within another region. For several decades, the Coca-Cola Company has adopted an aggressive acquisitions strategy in order to maintain its position at the top of the nonalcoholic beverage space. It's likely that this will only continue into the future.