The U.S. consumer is relatively financially healthy, despite turmoil in stock markets — at least if you measure in gas station snacks, according to one PepsiCo executive.
“The U.S. consumer is doing just fine,” Hugh Johnston, Pepsi’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Thursday.
Thanks in part to lower gas prices and improved employment, Pepsi saw convenience store sales, a bellwether of consumer spending, pop 6 percent in its latest quarter, Johnston said.
PepsiCo reported better-than-expected quarterly net revenue Thursday, Reuters reported. Net income attributable to the company rose to $1.72 billion, or $1.17 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 26, from $1.31 billion, or 87 cents per share, a year earlier.
Net revenue fell 7 percent to $18.59 billion. Analysts on average had expected net revenue of $18.51 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company also said it sees 2016 adjusted earnings of $4.66 a share.
Higher sales of snacks and beverages in North America helped reduce the impact of a strong dollar.
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A balanced portfolio across U.S. and emerging markets has helped the company weather macroeconomic challenges, Johnston said. Going into 2016, he said he expects currency headwinds to ease, allowing Pepsi to focus less on raising prices and more on generating higher sales volume.
The owner of Frito-Lay, Gatorade and Quaker Foods has been expanding its portfolio toward more health-centered options, including a rejected bid for a stake in Chobani Greek yogurt and new “better-for-you” vending machines called “Hello Goodness.”
Johnston said as Pepsi looks to make acquisitions, targets are more likely to be in snacks outside the U.S.
“Frankly, it really comes down to one metric: Does it create value for our shareholders?” Johnston said. “If the answer is yes, we’re interested. If the answer is no, we walk away.”
Pepsi was also featured as a prominent sponsor of Sundays’ SuperBowl game, with spots during the halftime show, and for products like Doritos and Mountain Dew.
“If you look at where we’ve been, since 2011, we’ve taken advertising and marketing up by 110 basis points,” Johnston said. “The reason we’re doing that is that we’re seeing good returns on investment.”
Shares of the global drink giant are are down nearly 4 percent over the past year, trailing competitor Coca-Cola, which is up 4 cents in the past 12 months. Despite a bubbly outlook on the consumer sector, Johnston does have one concern about the global financial markets, he said.
“My biggest concern in that regard, frankly, is if corporations wind up pulling back on investment because of the turbulent financial markets, and that ultimately plays its way into mainstream,” Johnston said. “But right now, I’m not seeing any signs of that.