Coca-Cola report a good start in a challenging environment

Coca Cola

Coca-Cola HBC AG (LON:CCH), a growth-focused Consumer Packaged Goods business and strategic bottling partner of The Coca-Cola Company, today announces its 2021 Q1 trading update.

First quarter highlights

·   Good FX-neutral revenue growth, +2.7% or +6.1% like-for-like1, driven by Sparkling and Energy, the Emerging segment and strong execution in the at-home channel

·   Growth accelerated in the Emerging segment, while the Established and Developing segments continued to be impacted by COVID-19 related restrictions extending through most of the quarter

·   Volumes up +1.5% or +4.7% like‑for‑like1; Sparkling and Energy together grew 10.7%. The comparative period in 2020 had 3 fewer selling days but also benefited from 2.5 months of pre-pandemic trading

·   FX-neutral revenue per case +1.2% or +1.3% like-for-like1; continued strong category mix and pricing in several markets

·   Gained or maintained value share in Non-alcoholic ready-to-drink and Sparkling in the majority of markets

·   Costa Coffee roll-out continues to progress well; now selling a range of formats in 16 markets

Segment highlights

·   Established: Sustained positive price/mix development despite ongoing restrictions in the out-of-home channel

·   Developing: Sugar tax implementation in Poland progressed as expected with volume recovering at the end of the quarter. Pricing taken to offset this tax had a 10.3pp impact on Developing price/mix

·   Emerging: Continued strong momentum in Nigeria and accelerated trends in Russia, with both markets growing volumes double‑digit

Q1 2021 vs Q1 2020Net sales revenue
growth (%)FX – neutral2ReportedVolumeNet sales revenue per unit case
FX – neutral2
Net sales revenue per unit case
Total Group2.7-
Established markets-3.2-3.7-
Developing markets-3.5-7.3-
Emerging markets10.4-

Zoran Bogdanovic, Chief Executive Officer of Coca-Cola HBC AG, commented:

“We have had a good start to the year despite the continued impact of the pandemic, with revenue growth led by Sparkling, Energy and strong execution in the at-home channel. Our operational agility, flexible route to market and strong customer relationships mean that we are well placed to capitalise on the reopening of the out-of-home channel. In the meantime, our diverse and balanced geographic footprint has allowed us to benefit from accelerating revenue in the Emerging market segment, while lockdowns continue to impact most European markets.

The speed and shape of recovery from the pandemic remains uncertain, but Q1 puts us on track to achieve our 2021 guidance for a strong recovery in FX-neutral revenues, along with a small increase in EBIT margin.”

1Performance, unless stated otherwise, is negatively impacted by the change in classification of our Russian Juice business, Multon, from a joint operation to a joint venture, following its re-organisation in May 2020. For the Group’s growth including the performance of Multon as a joint operation in the current period, refer to the relevant table in the ‘Supplementary information’ section.

2For details on Alternative Performance Measures (‘APMs’) refer to ‘Alternative Performance Measures’ and ‘Definitions and reconciliations of APMs’ sections.

Operational highlights

Good performance in a challenging environment   

Our business delivered a good performance in the quarter, maintaining the momentum seen in Q4. Strong execution is being driven by improvements in our route-to-market, through greater use of digital tools and our increasing ability to segment our customer base in more fine detail. We have also seen results from our focus on gaining share in the highest value at-home occasions, and we continue to gain or maintain share in the majority of our markets.

We benefited from another strong performance in the Emerging segment. Underlying category growth, combined with our teams’ execution of the portfolio, focusing on affordable packs as well as premiumisation opportunities in Adult Sparkling and Energy, led to continued double digit growth in Nigeria and an acceleration in Russia.  We continue to invest behind the most attractive growth opportunities in this key segment, adding both capabilities and capacity to sustain business momentum.

While Q1 volume growth included 3 additional selling days, it was delivered against a comparative period that was far less impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, with Q1 2020 benefitting from roughly two and a half months of pre-pandemic trading.

Continued growth in the at-home channel

The at-home channel has continued to be an engine for growth for the business with volume expansion in the mid-single digits. Our teams have executed their plans well, including:

·   Remaining focused on increasing our share of at‑home occasions, targeting affordable and premium offerings with our customers.

·   Ensuring affordability needs are met with the right pack and price portfolio offerings and targeted promotion. There is a strong focus on smaller packs that allow for lower consumer price points.

·   Continuing to seize a considerable premiumisation opportunity in the at-home channel through the expansion of multi-packs of single-serves which earn a higher revenue per case, and which grew by 18.4% in Q1, a significant acceleration compared to the prior two quarters (Q3 2020 +4.7%, Q4 2020 +12.9%).

The out-of-home channel saw declines of 20 to 30% in January and February. Performance stabilised in March as we began to lap a base where many of our markets had gone into lockdowns by mid-March 2020. Once underway, the recovery of the out-of-home channel, in addition to driving volume growth, is also expected to have a positive impact on price/mix.  In the meantime:

·   The flexibility of our route to market allows us to dynamically re-allocate our sales force, maximising opportunities in a changing marketplace.

·   We are actively supporting our customers so that they can drive more transactions and capture the growth opportunities in the channel as markets begin to reopen through the rest of the year.

Digital commerce channels are an increasingly important part of our route to market, and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an additional boost to this trend.

Although e-retail and digital commerce currently contribute a small proportion of revenues, we are seeing revenue growth from the channel in the high double digits, and we continue to invest capital and management attention in this area.

We now focus on four main areas of opportunity in this space:

·   Growing demand from our customers to order online from us and engage with us 24/7

·   Opportunities to digitise our physical business to business (B2B) route to market through e-marketplaces creating ecosystem effects

·   Business acceleration with pure e-retail and omnichannel brick and click customers where we are working to increase our availability, digital shelf space and visibility as well as direct shopper engagement; and

·   Opportunities in accelerating direct to consumer (D2C) offers and business models, especially in the post-COVID context with more and more consumers’ moving online

Driving growth through disciplined innovation 

Costa Coffee is now live in 16 markets and we continue to build our presence and distribution with plans to expand coverage to all 28 markets by 2023. We have also had good early results from the out-of-home opportunity which remains a key focus for 2021.

We began the roll out of the enhanced formula and package design for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar towards the end of the quarter, as well as the targeted acceleration of Aquarius in several markets.

Established markets segment – positive price/mix on partially offsetting out-of-home

Established markets volume declined 4.7% in the quarter. The Established segment countries have a greater proportion of their revenues from the out-of-home channel and most of the countries in the segment saw restrictions in this channel tighten throughout the quarter, which impacted performance. Meanwhile the at‑home channel continued to see strong volume performance as consumers have adapted their habits and our teams have focused execution on growing at-home occasions.

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Energy and Sparkling continue to be the best performing categories, with Energy volumes up double digits. Sparkling volumes excluding Energy declined by low-single digits with low and no-sugar variants and Adult Sparkling growing volumes double digit. This good performance was offset by weaker trading in Water and Juice, which declined in the low to high‑teens. Water over-indexes to the out-of-home channel which impacted performance.

In Italy, volumes declined by low-single digits. The country was the first in our territories to see restrictions in the out-of-home channel in 2020. We have seen low-single digit volume growth in Sparkling led by Trademark Coke and Energy while Stills volumes declined by mid-single digits.  

Volumes in Greece declined low single digit. The out-of-home channel was closed for the whole quarter. Despite this, we saw low-single digit volume growth in Sparkling and ongoing volume growth in the at-home channel, while Stills volumes declined by low teens.

In Switzerland, volumes declined by low double digits. The out-of-home channel was closed for the whole quarter while the at-home channel grew. On a category basis we saw volume declines in Stills and Sparkling overall, while Energy saw strong volume growth.

In Ireland, volumes declined by low single digits. The out-of-home channel was closed for the whole quarter impacting performance, while we continued to see strong trends in the at-home channel. The sparkling category remained resilient, with low-single digit volume declines overall while Energy saw strong volume growth. Stills volumes declined, led by Water.

FX-neutral net sales revenue per case increased by 1.5% in the quarter benefiting from favorable category mix as well as price increases in several markets. Package and channel mix was negative, although with an improved trend compared to 2020. FX-neutral revenues declined by 3.2% in the quarter, while reported revenue declined by 3.7%, with the difference being due to the weakening of the Swiss Franc.

Developing markets segment – pricing taken to offset sugar tax in Poland

Volume in the Developing markets declined by 11.4%, led by Poland where pricing taken to pass on the new sugar tax resulted in an anticipated volume decline. Excluding Poland, the segment’s volume decline was 3.2%. We saw COVID-19 related restrictions continue through the quarter. Energy and Sparkling continue to be the best performing categories, while Stills volume declined double digits.

In Poland, volumes were impacted by the new sugar tax which started on 1 January 2021. In line with our plans, we have passed this tax on in full, necessitating price increases and resulting in an anticipated volume decline in the low twenties. Early signs from the tax are in line with our expectations and we are encouraged by the resilience of the sparkling category, very good volume growth of Coke Zero, as well as continued strong growth in Energy. Outside of the tax, the out-of-home channel remained closed for the whole quarter, but a relisting at a major retailer saw volumes improve in the last month of the quarter.  

In Hungary, volume contracted by mid-single digits led by declines in Stills, while Sparkling volumes grew mid‑single digits. The out-of-home channel was closed throughout Q1, which led to volume declines, while the at‑home channel continued to grow.

Volume in the Czech Republic declined by mid-single digits led by Stills, particularly Water. The out-of-home channel was closed throughout the quarter. Despite that, Sparkling volumes were stable, and Energy saw strong performance.

FX-neutral net sales revenue per case increased by 8.9% buoyed by the pricing taken to offset the Polish sugar tax, without it, FX-neutral revenue per case would have been -1.4%. The segment benefited from strong category mix while package and channel mix declined. FX-neutral net sales revenue in the Developing markets was down 3.5% in the quarter. Reported revenue declined by 7.3%, negatively impacted by adverse currency movements in the Polish Zloty and Hungarian Forint.

Emerging markets segment – continued momentum in Nigeria and accelerated performance in Russia

Emerging markets volumes increased by 8.7% or 14.5% on a like-for-like basis. This like-for-like adjustment includes the volumes from our Russian Juice business, Multon, which as of May 2020 is classified as a joint venture, following its re‑organisation, thus resulting in the relevant volumes not being recognised as part of our reported revenues.

In Q1, the Emerging segment saw an acceleration in volume growth, despite a high comparative, due to faster growth in Russia and continued strong results in Nigeria. The capabilities developed over many years in revenue growth management and route to market are allowing us to take advantage of strong category growth and continue to focus on value share expansion.

In Russia, volumes declined by low-single digits, or grew by high teens like-for-like. This acceleration in performance was led by Sparkling, up mid-twenties with double-digit growth across Trademark Coke, Fanta and Sprite, while Schweppes volumes doubled. Energy saw a strong acceleration. Juice volumes grew by double digits like-for-like, while overall Stills performance grew mid-single digits on a like-for-like basis.

Nigeria has maintained strong momentum, with Q1 marking the second quarter in a row where the market has achieved double digit volume growth despite cycling high comparatives in the prior period. Volume strength was led by Sparkling, which grew by high-twenties and exceptional growth in Energy. Stills volumes declined by mid-single digits with double digit growth in Juices offset by volumes declines in Water.

In Romania, volumes grew by low-single digits. The country has operated with relatively few COVID-19 related restrictions in the quarter, achieving growth in both at-home and out-of-home channels. Sparkling volumes grew high-single digit while Stills declined mid-teens.

FX neutral net sales revenue per case was up 1.6%, or 3.2% like-for-like. Positive category mix, as well as pricing, more than offset negative channel and package mix. FX-neutral revenues increased by 10.4% or by 18.3% on a like-for-like basis. Reported revenues declined by 3.0%, or increased by 3.9% like-for-like, with the difference mainly due to the weakened Russian Rouble and Nigerian Naira.

Category highlights

Sparkling volumes were up 9.6% in the quarter. We saw particularly strong performance from low and no‑sugar variants, which grew volumes by double digits in all three segments. Growth was broad-based across brands and led by Trademark Coke at 9.1%. Adult Sparkling is a key area of focus for the Group since it offers premiumisation and revenue generation opportunities across our markets and is well placed for the growing trend for consumers to replicate out-of-home experiences at home. We are pleased to see the sub‑category continuing to expand faster than the core portfolio, up 28.5% in the first quarter with volume growth across all three segments. The energy category saw an acceleration in performance, with volumes up by 55.8% and double-digit growth in all segments.

Still drinks declined by 22.1%, or by 10.5% on a like-for-like basis. The category was weighed down by Water which over‑indexes to the out‑of‑home channel and declined by 16.9% with declines across all three segments. Juice volume was up 1.3% on a like‑for‑like basis, or down 52.7% on a reported basis which includes the change in accounting treatment of our Russian Juice business. In RTD tea, volume declined by 10.5%.

Package mix is recovering, finishing with a marginal decline of 0.2pp in Q1, a notable improvement compared to the 3.0pp decline in 2020 with single-serve packs growing volumes by 4.1% like-for-like.

Emission reduction targets

Coca-Cola HBC was one of the first companies to set, and deliver, science-based CO2 emissions targets. We are proud of our track record, having cut direct and purchased carbon emissions by 50% in the last decade. We have now committed that, by 2030, we will reduce emissions by a further 55% compared to a 2017 baseline. These targets are approved by the Science Based Target initiative and in line with the 1.5-degree pathway.  

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