NEW YORK — Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest beverage maker, said Tuesday that the amount of soda it sold globally fell for the first time in 15 years.
The drop in the first quarter was offset by stronger sales of its noncarbonated drinks, including Minute Maid, Powerade and Dasani bottled water. Overall volume rose 2 percent, an improvement from the 1 percent increase the previous quarter.
But the 1 percent decline in global soda volume is notable for Coca-Cola. The last time the figure fell was in 1999, according to the company.
Outgoing chief financial officer Gary Fayard attributed the drop partly to Easter falling in the second quarter this year instead of the first.
He also cited a double-digit soda decline in Great Britain, where the company stood by its pricing despite switching to smaller bottles. For the full year, Fayard said he expects global soda volume to be positive.
The decline in global soda volume comes as Coca-Cola increasingly is relying on non-carbonated beverages to boost sales as sodas continue to face pressure, both at home and abroad. In developed nations like the U.S., soda has been under fire for years over concerns that it fuels weight gain. More recently, executives have blamed declines in diet sodas on concerns about artificial sweeteners.
For the quarter, Coca-Cola’s soda volume slipped 1 percent in North America and 5 percent in Europe. It also took a hit in Mexico as the country instituted a tax on the sugary drinks, although the company didn’t specify the severity of the decline.
Sodas still account for 75 percent of the company’s case volume outside the U.S. Overall, 81 percent of the company’s case volume comes from overseas.
Coca-Cola isn’t alone in its struggles to boost soda sales. PepsiCo Inc., which reports its quarterly results Thursday, has suffered even steeper declines despite stepped-up marketing.
Although both companies sell a wide array of beverages, sodas remain a big part of their businesses and they’re scrambling to figure out ways to stop the declines even as they rely more heavily on other types of drinks.
In the year ahead, Coca-Cola plans to increase its marketing budget by $400 million to “north of $4 billion,” said CEO Muhtar Kent. The company also introduced a version of its namesake soda sweetened with a mix of stevia and sugar in Argentina, with plans to eventually introduce the drink elsewhere.
Finances at a glance
For the quarter that ended March 28, unfavorable currency exchange rates contributed to an 8 percent decline in profit.
Adjusted for such one-time factors, earnings per share were in line with Wall Street expectations and Coca-Cola shares rose 3 percent to $40.09.
Net income fell to $1.62 billion, or 36 cents per share. That compares with $1.77 billion, or 39 cents per share a year ago.
Revenue fell 4 percent to $10.58 billion.