Green Mountain Hits a Molehill

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Maybe Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NAS: GMCR) won't have such a rosy holiday season after all.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Astrachan is issuing a bearish note on the java giant, sending the stock sharply lower today. Green Mountain shares were off by as much as 14% this morning.

Astrachan's channel checks show that Keurig brewer shipments from China have declined in recent months. The news contrasts with Green Mountain's conference call last month, when the company behind the Keurig single-cup brewers and the K-Cup portion packs that fuel the caffeinated sips indicated that sales are holding up well. It stuck to its near-term guidance calling for 60% to 65% in net sales growth for the entire fiscal year.

Astrachan feels that decelerating brewer shipments will result in a slowdown in K-Cup shipments.

Then again, we're only seeing part of the picture here. Bears were concerned that inventory levels were growing faster than the company's heady net sales. Is this simply a response to close the gap? Is this a natural slowdown ahead of the second generation of Keurig brewers that Green Mountain expects to introduce next summer? Is Astrachan's data also including the licensed Keurig-compatible single-cup brewers that Jarden's (NYS: JAH) Mr. Coffee and Conair's Cuisinart have been putting out? Are folks simply not buying brewers, or are they choosing different systems like the new CBTL single-cup platform that also makes espresso? Bed Bath & Beyond (NAS: BBBY) has been promoting that particular Keurig rival over older peers that have flopped in the past.

We're definitely getting mixed messages here.

This should have been a strong quarter for Green Mountain. Starbucks (NAS: SBUX) finally rolled out its K-Cups last month. Dunkin' Brands (NAS: DNKN) hopped on the K-Cup bandwagon over the summer, and even began selling Keurig brewers in some of its stores. Earlier this month, Canaccord Genuity analyst Scott Van Winkle reported that K-Cups were taking up 30% to 50% more shelf space than they did a year earlier.

What should have been a quarter of redemption is now one of questions. The volatility will create opportunities on both ends of this battle. As a shareholder, I know which way I want this to end, but we'll all have to deal with the ups and downs until those questions are ultimately answered early next year.

If you want to follow this caffeinated saga, addGreen Mountain Coffee Roastersto My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Starbucks.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Starbucks, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a lurking gator position in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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