Coca-Cola sees sales and profits grow as consumers buy more on the go

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola reported growth in sales and profits in the first quarter of this year as the beverage giant shook off its previous suspension of business in Russia and saw more sales from restaurants and other vendors that serve drinks outside the home.

Coke and its sprawling lineup of sodas, coffees, teas, waters, sports drinks and other beverages are sold in nearly every country on the planet. The company’s sales are often a bellwether for how the economy is faring.

Coke said net revenue grew 5% to $11 billion during the January to March quarter compared to the same period a year ago and noted 8% sales growth in its Smartwater brand. The company said higher prices and volumes helped in its quarterly results.

Coke said it earned $3.1 billion in net income attributable to shareholders in the first quarter, up 12% from the same period last year. Net income totaled $0.72 per share, also up 12%.

Unit case volume was up 3%. Sales from restaurants and other “away-from-home” vendors were a strength, Coke said. Soft drink sales climbed 3%, led by sales in its Asia-Pacific and Latin America segments. But sales growth was dampened in part by Coke’s suspension of business in Russia. Coke and many other U.S. companies halted operations there last year after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Net revenue from the Asia-Pacific region was down 3% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

“Our system alignment is stronger than ever, and our networked organization is allowing us to adapt as needed. We continue to invest for the long term, strengthening our capabilities to drive sustainable value for our stakeholders,” Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO James Quincey said in a news release. “We have the right portfolio, the right strategy and the right execution to deliver in the marketplace. We are confident in our ability to deliver on our 2023 objectives.”

Juice, dairy and plant-based beverage sales were flat, overall, as growth was offset by the impact of suspending sales in Russia.

The company’s water, sports drink, coffee and tea segment grew 4% overall, though sports drinks were down a bit.

Coke said the company is also experimenting with new technologies, including a collaboration with OpenAI and Bain & Co. to use artificial intelligence platforms ChatGPT and DALL-E in marketing and other business operations.