Coca Cola Consolidated Inc., Charlotte, N.C., reported operating results for the first quarter, which ended March 31, 2019.
“I am very pleased with our strong revenue growth and improved operating performance in the first quarter,” said Frank Harrison, chairman and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola Consolidated, in a statement. “Our results reflect the benefits of the strategic actions we took in the second half of 2018 to improve our margins and reduce our operating expenses. Our pricing actions are delivering meaningful revenue and profit growth as we remain highly focused on leveraging the scale of our expanded territory.”
Revenue grew 3.6 percent in the first quarter, driven by increases in the selling prices of our products. Volume for the quarter was flat to prior year as growth of still beverages offset declines of sparkling products. Bottle/can sales of sparkling beverages increased 4.6 percent for the quarter, driven by increased selling prices and the introduction of new products into the portfolio, including Orange Vanilla Coke. Sales of still beverages grew 7.1 percent, primarily driven by growth in the sport and energy drink categories. Q1 2019 was the company’s first full quarter of distribution of BODYARMOR products, which helped to fuel its overall net sales growth.
“Our portfolio of brands and the activation of those brands in the marketplace by our 17,000 teammates continue to generate excitement and value for our retail partners and our consumers,” said Dave Katz, president and chief operating officer, in a statement. “I am particularly pleased with the performance of our sparkling beverages in the first quarter as improved trends enabled us to grow our value share in this important category.”
Gross margin increased 170 basis points in the first quarter to 35.3 percent. On an adjusted basis, gross margin increased 100 basis points over the prior year. This improvement primarily is the result of pricing actions taken in the second half of 2018 to overcome significantly higher input costs. While input costs remain at elevated levels, overall commodity prices have been more stable so far this year, contributing to first quarter margin improvement, the company says.
Selling, delivery and administrative (SD&A) expenses in Q1 2019 decreased $7.4 million, or 2 percent, as compared with the prior year. The company’s SD&A as a percentage of sales improved 190 basis points versus Q1 2018 (33.5 percent vs. 35.4 percent, respectively) largely driven by a decrease in costs from its system transformation initiative. Its Q1 2019 results included $4.7 million of system transformation expenses relating to its information technology system conversion, an improvement of $7.5 million versus prior year. The company expects its system conversion to be completed by the end of the second quarter of 2019. In addition, its first quarter expenses reflect the benefit of the operating structure changes that were completed in 2018, it says.
Income from operations was $20.2 million in Q1 2019, an increase of $39.2 million from Q1 2018. Adjusted income from operations was $20.7 million in Q1 2019, up from an adjusted operating loss of $3.6 million in Q1 2018. Operating results in the first half of 2019, as compared with the first half of 2018, benefit from results in 2018 that were negatively impacted by high commodity and transportation costs, it says.
Capital spending for Q1 2019 was $29.3 million. The company continues to anticipate capital spending in fiscal 2019 will be in the range of $150 million to $180 million as it remains focused on making prudent, long-term investments, it says. Cash flows provided by operations for Q1 2019 were $5.6 million, compared with cash flows used in operations of $80.7 million in Q1 2018. BI