Cramer: The Pepsi Challenge

 | Dec 13, 2013 | 7:44 AM EST  | Comments
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ko

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bwld

Is a stable PepsiCo (PEP) pulling away from a chaotic Coca-Cola (KO).

One has to wonder after the two pieces of news that came out yesterday about the companies. In the morning we learned that one of the fastest growing restaurant chains. Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD), is ripping out Coke and putting in Pepsi along with working directly with PepsiCo subsidiary, Frito-Lay, to develop custom-designed product.

The other one, Coca-Cola announced a management shuffle that included the departure of Steve Cahillane, head of the Americas division for the company, who is leaving just eleven months after he took the job. Coke is an insular place these days, so we can't be sure, but there had been a lot of talk that Cahillane might take over the reins when Muhtar Kent retires.

Cahillane was helping to pave the way for the refranchising of bottlers, one of those financial engineering things that Coca-Cola is doing that doesn't attack at all the core issue -- namely, people are drinking less and less soda, both regular and diet. Both are dying categories, the first because of obesity and diabetes and the second because, well, who knows what, but if you go to the doctor, s/he will tell you not to drink diet sodas. Doctors want you to drink water, and Coca-Cola has a water business. But it is hardly as lucrative as soda.

Now, PepsiCo faces the same challenges and its deal with Buffalo Wild Wings shows how it can leverage that snack-soda duality that Nelson Peltz has questioned.

I am a huge believer in Indra Nooyi, have been for years, and she believes both companies should be under the same roof. Smart CEO.

I'm with her. She is one of my Bankable 21, the 21 CEOs I salute in Get Rich Carefully that comes out at the end of the month.

Yesterday we saw the intelligence of keeping the two companies together. Maybe soda comes back one day. But in the meantime, like all no-growth to declining categories, it's a market share game.

Consider this a moment: PepsiCo is flexing its muscles. Coca-Cola? It's gone flat.

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