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The board of directors of PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP - Analyst Report) recently announced a 5.6% increase in the food and beverage giant’s dividend, its 41st hike in the quarterly-dividend rate.

The annual dividend was increased to $2.27 per share from $2.15, resulting in an annual dividend yield of 2.7%. The new quarterly dividend of slightly less than 57 cents is expected to be payable on Jun 28, 2013 to shareholders on record as of Jun 7, 2013.

PepsiCo regularly returns value to shareholders through higher dividends and share buybacks as well as re-invests excessive earnings back in its business. In 2012, the company returned $6.5 billion to shareholders through a combination of share repurchases and dividends, up 16% from 2011 levels and expects to return approximately $6.4 billion in 2013. In fact, over the past five years, the company has returned $30 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

The company recently held its annual shareholder meeting where management discussed its increased focus on good for you products and emerging and developing markets. PEP also talked about its efforts to build new capabilities to meet the changing consumer needs.

Last month, PepsiCo reported strong first-quarter earnings results beating both the Zacks Consensus Estimate as well as the year-ago results. The company also delivered positive top line growth and strong margins while retaining its 2013 outlook.

2012 was a turning point for PepsiCo. In this year the company increased investments in brand building, market execution and innovation, improved productivity and efficiency, and drove significant cash flow generation, thereby setting a solid foundation for further growth and competitive advantage.

PepsiCo currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Some other beverage companies that are currently doing well and deserve a mention include The Coca-Cola Company (KO - Analyst Report) and Coca-Cola Amatil Limited (CCLAY), both carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Coffee giant, Starbucks Corporation (SBUX - Analyst Report) also carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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