Consumer Staples Sector Review: Pepsi to Cut Jobs, Kraft Pushes Soda

The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) and Nestle refined their joint venture and agreed to narrow the geographic scope of their ready-to-drink tea to Canada and Europe. The firm will enter a licensing arrangement in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The rest of the regions involved will be phased out by the end of 2012. KO shares closed at $68.93, down $0.44, or 0.63%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $156.56 billion.

PepsiCo Inc. (NYSE:PEP) is considering cutting nearly 4,000 jobs and reducing pension contributions.  The belt tightening is being considered as a way to boost earnings, as the soft-drink company could save $75 million from eliminating its 401k match. The shares closed at $65.39, down $0.83, or 1.25%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $102.23 billion.

Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE:MO) was named a top pick in tobacco for 2012 by UBS. However, Davenport downgraded Altria to Neutral from Buy based on valuation. The shares closed at $28.72, down $0.11, or 0.38%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $59.06 billion.

SodaStream International Ltd (NASDAQ:SODA) out of Israel is partnering with Kraft Foods Inc. (NYSE:KFT) to create the U.S. firm’s branded flavors available to its soda makers, in a step projected to enhance awareness of the brand and the home carbonation market. The first brands to be available to SodaStream from Kraft include diet drink Crystal Light and lemonade Country Time. This marks the first instance of Kraft Foods flavors being available distinctly for carbonated beverage use. Kraft shares closed at $37.55, down $0.19, or 0.5%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $66.34 billion.

Unilever (NYSE:UN) (UV) was downgraded to Hold from Buy at ING Group. The shares closed at $33.27, down $1.22, or 3.54%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $93.19 billion.

The Sterno Group, a Blyth, Inc. (NYSE:BTH) brand, is recalling about 10,000 cases of its Sterno Bulk Pack 5 Hour Tea lights, item numbers 505TL and 505S, since the tea light wax can overheat resulting in the wax catching fire, posing a burn and fire hazard. The shares closed at $56.41, down $1.97, or 3.37%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $463.61 million.

Helen of Troy (NASDAQ:HELE) announced the December 30, 2011 closing of its previously announced agreement to acquire the PUR water purification products business from The Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE:PG). Procter & Gamble was also downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Buckingham. PG shares closed at $66.36, down $0.16, or 0.24%, on the day. Its market capitalization is $182.58 billion.