Coca-Cola’s new president and chief operating officer said the company is continuing to pursue a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on both restoring momentum in the short term and transforming the business for continued success down the road.

James Quincey, who appeared at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston Wednesday, said Coca-Cola sees immense growth opportunities around the world. In his prepared remarks and during a question-and-answer session, Quincey – who was named to Coke’s No. 2 post in August – touched on a variety of key issues and challenges.

The company’s strategy rests in large part on driving growth through increased media spending and better-quality marketing. Coca-Cola is funding much of this work through a constant focus on productivity, which involves making important choices about how to best use the company’s resources.

Quincey said this work is already showing “early green shoots” in markets where Coca-Cola has invested in marketing.

“We’re seeing that value-share trends are improving,” he said.

Coca-Cola has won value share for 32 consecutive quarters, Quincey said, and the expectation is continued recharge in the company’s growth rate. While macroeconomic conditions are a concern in many places around the world, the Coca-Cola system has much of its fate in its own hands.

“We can’t control all the broader macroeconomic” issues, Quincey said. “We can control how we compete in the marketplaces and how we can aim to continue to win in those marketplaces.”



James Quincey
James Quincey, Coke's new president and COO, speaks to employees last month in Atlanta.

In part, this includes tailoring the company’s strategy for different types of markets. In developed regions like the United States, Coca-Cola focuses largely on driving revenue growth ahead of the industry through favorable price and mix and less on volume growth. In developing markets, in contrast, revenue growth will be more dependent on volume growth. 

Coca-Cola is also committed to continuing to diversify its portfolio across categories. This has been – and will likely continue to be – a multi-pronged approach. 

“We’ll never be able to do it one way,” Quincey said. “We'll never be able to get our sales to the sort of position of scale and the margins we want just organically, even though we've been able to create some $1 billion brands from scratch over the last few years. That's not going to be enough, fast enough, to meet our objectives. We are going to need to do some bolt-on acquisitions.”

In his first few weeks on the job, Quincey has spent time filling what he calls his “knowledge gaps.” While Quincey is a Coke veteran who has worked at the company for 19 years, he is expanding his knowledge of markets where he hasn’t had as much exposure. Quincey’s career, until now, has centered largely on Latin America and Europe.

“From my perspective, it’s a humbling opportunity to take over what has been an emblematic role at The Coca-Cola Company,” he said. Quincey is the first president at Coca-Cola since Muhtar Kent, now chairman and CEO, was named to the job.

Quincey will, among other things, play an important role in driving growth and pushing the company’s productivity work forward. “We have been able to get costs out in the past; they just generally came back through the back door at some point in the future,” he said. "Today’s work involves a “cultural shift.”

He added, “There's no way to declare victory overnight. We’re going to have to keep building on it.” What helps drive change, he said, is when employees see evidence that savings are being used to drive growth.

The company’s relationship with bottlers is positive, Quincey said, citing a recent gathering of bottlers from around the world. “There was a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “There is actually a lot of mojo back in the system to take the business forward.”