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Coca-Cola's profit dips but more drinks sold

NEW YORK- Coca-Cola's (KO) first-quarter profit fell nearly 8 percent as the world's biggest beverage maker faced a stronger dollar and sold less soda.

But the company sold more of its noncarbonated drinks worldwide, and its earnings matched expectations.

The Atlanta-based company says global sales volume rose 2 percent. In its flagship North American market, soda volume slipped 1 percent as the company raised prices.

Coca-Cola Co., which also makes drinks including Sprite, Powerade and Dasani, has been under pressure to deliver stronger results, particularly back at home where Americans have been cutting back on soda for years.

The company isn't alone in its struggles to boost soda sales. PepsiCo Inc., which reports its earnings Thursday, has seen even steeper declines in its soda business despite stepped-up marketing, including sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show.

Both companies sell a wide array of beverages, including sports drinks, bottled water and orange juice. But sodas remain a big part of their businesses, and they're scrambling to figure out ways to stop the declines.

"Look, we have Coca-Cola, and we have another 500 brands. The key is to offer a wide variety of choices," CEO Muhtar Kent said in an interview on CNBC regarding the concerns about soda.

To boost sales, the company plans to slash costs and put the savings into marketing in the year ahead. It 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.

For the quarter ended March 28, net income fell to $1.62 billion, or 36 cents per share. That compares with net income of $1.77 billion, or 39 cents per share a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, net income totaled 44 cents per share, matching analyst expectations.

Revenue fell 4 percent to $10.58 billion. Analysts expected $10.5 billion. Companies like Coca-Cola that do a large portion of their business overseas take a hit to revenue when the dollar is strong, because foreign currencies convert back into fewer dollars.

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