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October 3, 2019 11:00 AM, EDT

Pepsi Says Higher Prices Haven’t Quenched Consumer Demand

Pepsi Chris Rank/Bloomberg News

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PepsiCo Inc. is getting a boost from higher prices on its drinks and snacks, a sign U.S. consumers still feel good amid recent indicators of a looming economic slowdown.

The snack and beverage giant said Oct. 3 it will meet or exceed its full-year revenue growth after sales and profit both topped Wall Street estimates for last quarter. The results showed that once again consumers were willing to pay more for its products.

“The consumer right now in the U.S., at least in terms of our business, is doing really well,” Hugh Johnston, the company’s chief financial officer, said in an interview.

In recent days, weak manufacturing numbers have raised concerns that President Donald Trump’s trade war with China is hampering the economy. Other indicators have pointed to a slowdown: Companies are pulling back spending as tariffs weigh on business decisions and global demand slides. The August gain in consumer spending was the smallest in six months.

But with unemployment at record lows and gas prices down, U.S. shoppers haven’t bucked at higher prices for PepsiCo’s wide range of products, which include Gatorade, Diet Pepsi and Tostitos.

PepsiCo’s shares had gained 21% this year through close Oct. 2, outpacing the 15% gain for the S&P 500 index.

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division has helped the company navigate a broader decline in soda, with brands like Ruffles chips, Cheetos and Doritos dominating the salty-snack aisle last quarter. Frito-Lay North America posted 5.5% organic revenue growth in the quarter, boosted by volume gains.

Sales were even up in the key North American beverage unit, which has faced pressure as consumers cut down on sugary soda and competitors flood stores with a host of new options. The Gatorade brand, which has struggled, posted mid-single-digit revenue growth, helped by the sugar-free Gatorade Zero product.

PepsiCo has put money back into the business, increasing marketing spending this year to fend off rival Coca-Cola Co. That’s helped boost brands like Bubly, the sparkling water the company launched last year that has quickly taken market share.

Investors have been on edge about any sign of potential weakness in consumer spending, the engine of the U.S. economy.

Unlike PepsiCo, Constellation Brands Inc., the maker of Modelo and Corona beer, disappointed Oct. 3. While quarterly earnings topped estimates, beer depletion volume — a measure of how much beer distributors sent to stores — came in lower than expected, rising 6.2%. Analysts anticipated 7.7% growth.

PepsiCo ranks No. 1 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

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