ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. in certain beverage categories in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2021, eclipsed unit volume levels achieved in 2019, a sign that the world’s markets are coming back from COVID-19. Company executives expect a greater global reopening in 2022, a year in which they also will raise prices “intelligently” to offset inflation.
Compared to 2019, global unit case volume sequentially improved each quarter in 2021. Unit case volume in 2021 surpassed unit case volume in 2019 for sparkling soft drinks, Coca-Cola, sports drinks, and nutrition, juice, dairy and plant-based beverages.
Unit case volume for the year increased 8% when compared to 2020. In the fourth quarter, away-from-home volume was ahead of away-from-home volume in the fourth quarter of 2019.
“Notably, it was the first quarter in which away-from-home volume was also ahead of 2019 while at-home channels remained strong,” said James Robert B. Quincey, chief executive officer, in a Feb. 10 earnings call.
Coca-Cola said net income attributable to company shareholders totaled $9.77 billion, or $2.26 per share on the common stock, for the fiscal year, which was up 26% from $7.75 billion, or $1.80 per share, in the previous fiscal year. Net operating revenues of $38.66 billion were up 17% from $33.01 billion in 2020.
Price/mix increased 6% in the fiscal year thanks to pricing actions along with favorable channel and package price mix due to cycling the impact of COVID-19 in the prior year. Coca-Cola in 2021 focused on core brands and scaled down stock-keeping units.
“We also built more discipline into our innovation process in 2021 with a key focus on scalable bets that can build momentum year-over-year,” Mr. Quincey said. “It's still early, but the approach is working. Revenue per launch and gross profit per launch were up 30% and 25%, respectively, versus prior year.”
In the fourth quarter, net income attributable to Coca-Cola Co. shareholders was $2.41 billion, or 56¢ per share on the common stock, which was up 65% from $1.46 billion, or 34¢ per share, in the previous year’s fourth quarter. Net operating revenues grew 10% to $9.46 billion from $8.61 billion in the previous year’s fourth quarter.
Coca-Cola in fiscal 2022 expects organic revenue growth of 7% to 8% and commodity price inflation in the mid-single-digit percentages.
“There are several considerations to keep in mind for 2022,” said John Murphy, chief financial officer. “Overall, inflationary and supply chain pressures continue to impact costs across several fronts in the business, including input costs, transportation, marketing and operating expenses. With regards to commodity costs, after benefiting from our hedging strategy in 2021, we remain well hedged in 2022 but at higher levels.”
Coca-Cola plans to pass through price “intelligently” in 2022, Mr. Quincey said.
“Because whilst it's easy to respond to inflation by putting up the prices, there is clearly — as there is broad-based inflation — going to be a squeeze on real incomes in a number of countries,” he said.
Coca-Cola assumes a greater degree of reopening will occur in 2022, he said.“We can certainly begin to see that in Europe as the omicron variant has moved through,” Mr. Quincey said. “The US, just this week, mask mandates are coming down. So there is going to be an improvement in mobility across the world. It's not going to be back to 2019 fully in 2022, and I think that's going to be true, both in terms of domestic mobility and international.”