2016's Surprise Beverage Company Stock Winner: SodaStream International Ltd.

By Motley Fool StaffMarketsFool.com

Shares ofSodaStream International Ltd. (NASDAQ: SODA) fell 19% in 2015, yet they've climbed an astonishing 150% so far in 2016. In the following excerpt from The Motley Fool'sIndustry Focus: Consumer Goods podcast 2016 year-end special, analyst Vincent Shen and contributor Asit Sharma discuss the strategic pivot that enabled SodaStream to reverse its fortunes.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Dec. 19, 2016.

Vincent Shen: This one was something that I previously on the show had talked about this company and some of its competitors, we kind of beat up on it at times, and that's SodaStream International. Previously, with Keurig Green Mountain, for example, with SodaStream, these were companies that were the whipping boy for a lot of people following the stock market, in terms of having hit these incredible highs -- for SodaStream, as recently as 2013, when their stock peaked at $70. They were in a position where there were some very interesting rumors at the time of an incoming buyout from potential industry heavyweights like Coca-Cola, Pepsi. These were at insane valuations, like $90 to $100 per share. Management was giving shareholders some really strong guidance. They said they hoped to hit revenue of $1 billion by 2016. That was just three years ago, they were talking about this in 2013. But those buyout rumors fizzled out. Growth started to decelerate and went into a full-on reversal. The stock went from those $70-plus peaks, and bottomed out at around $13 over the next few years.

But, 2016 has been much kinder. It is up 140% year-to-date, having traded up from about $16 per share to its current level at over $38. I think it's really important, with some of that background, when the stock was at its highs, that it's really pivoted its strategy and been able to shift its focus toward what has been a very strong segment within the beverage industry, and that is with sparkling water. First of all, the company is called SodaStream, but it's pretty much, in some ways, abandoning its namesake market and embracing the sparkling water segment. You look at the news in 2016 about how soda consumption in the United States is down to 30-year lows. I don't know about you, Asit, but I myself drink soda less than ever. I don't know if you've ever been much of a soda drinker. What is your experience with sparkling water? Is that something that you've seen yourself start to take hold in terms of its popularity? A lot of these other brands like LaCroix, also becoming very popular?

Asit Sharma: Personally, I used to drink a ton of soda, a big fan of Coca-Cola. I just gave up soda about four years ago on a whim, and it just grew, I didn't want to drink it anymore. And I think a lot of us can extrapolate this experience into the numbers for a company like SodaStream. We all want to be healthy. I think SodaStream is a great example of a company which actually was in decline and had a new market opportunity and took advantage of that. We should probably also mention that its primary competitor, which was going to be the Keurig Green Mountain, as you mentioned, with their Keurig Kold, which was primed to be a competitor to SodaStream, well that really never panned out. The company was sold off, and that has restored the moat that SodaStream claims. I think that is important as well.

But, you've isolated what is really the prime advantage for SodaStream even moving forward. We've seen with a company like Dr Pepper Snapple, we've also seen this with National Beverage Corporation, sparkling water is a huge wave because its main advantage is it's lower in sugar, and the carbonation is still there. Because SodaStream was already positioned with the carbonated water, it's going to take advantage of this. Like many other people, I had given up on the stock. Speaking of waves, the stock chart of SodaStream over the last year or so looks like a surfer on one of those big Hawaiian waves. It has a great curve going up. It may be a little bit ahead of itself at this point, but again, this goes back to something we talk a lot about at The Motley Fool -- that is, if a company can establish a competitive moat, you want to be in that stock. I think many of us thought that advantage had slipped away, but circumstance and fortune have restored it in that its competitor, the Keurig Kold, is no more.

Asit Sharma has no position in any stocks mentioned. Vincent Shen has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.