"I Have the Chops to Be a Great Bottler... We Must Serve As the Face of the Brands."
On Feb 21, Coca-Cola Co announced plans to re-franchise some Coca-Cola Refreshments territory to two system newcomers: investment banker Troy Taylor and beer distributor Reyes Holdings. Assuming they ultimately reach final agreement with Coca-Cola Co, Taylor will get parts of central Florida including Tampa and St. Petersburg. Reyes will get the greater Chicago area. Reyes is well known as an efficient, well-executing, major U.S. beer distributor (BD email alert 2/21/14). Taylor is not well known in the soft drink business. In recent years, he says, he has been an investment banker based in Texas. He adds that he is moving to Florida where his territory will be. He has worked on Coke and other franchise system deals. He represented the de la Cruz family when it bought the Puerto Rican Coke bottler from Bacardi in 1995, and Alberto de la Cruz, who runs the bottler, has high praise for him. Taylor says he will be the principal owner of the new bottler, and there will be outside investors. Taylor says he has been "an advisor" to Coke for over a decade. He says he began working with the Coke system in the early 1990’s while at Chemical Bank in Houston. He says he is also founder and managing partner of Spinel Investment Company, a private advisory and investment management firm.
About Troy Taylor
Taylor is 43. He and his wife, Vonda, have two children. He holds a bachelor of business administration degree in finance/business law from Marshall University.
Interview with Troy Taylor
Troy, you've been an investment
banker. What kinds of deals have you
mainly done, what was your specialty?
"I focused on financings and strategic advisory transactions across a variety of sectors, but my specialty was consumer products deals. I was part of a team that focused on franchisees and suppliers mainly in the Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, and Burger King systems, among others. That experience was my first taste of the Coke system and the very best time I had in banking. When I started working with Coke bottlers, I immediately knew that I wanted to be one, and I’ve been on this journey to join the Coke system ever since."
You've done Coke system
deals. Which are some of the bottlers
you've represented and/or deals you've done?
"A lot of the deals that I was involved in were for bottlers who are no longer independent bottlers like Coke Southwest, Coke Sacramento, Coke Herb Chicago and Coke Ouachita. I also did deals for a few bottlers who are still in the system, including Coca-Cola Puerto Rico. I was part of the team that introduced the de la Cruz family to the Puerto Rico opportunity when the bottler was being sold by Bacardi. I got to know Alberto (de la Cruz) very well in the process and learned a lot about the business. After leaving banking, I worked as a consultant to CCE right before they sold the North America operations to Coke. There, I also gained more experience and insight into the business. I also took a look at several opportunities to get into the system over the years, most notably Philly Coke and Central Coke when they were being sold. I have been around the system for a long time, and I have gotten to know great people like (Coke CFO) Gary Fayard and (Coke North America chief) Sandy Douglas very well over the years. I have always expressed my desire to be a Coke bottler. It’s been a long journey to get to this point, and I am very happy and excited to be joining the Coca-Cola family."
With the growth headwinds and
challenges facing the U.S. soft drink business, why become a Coke bottler now?
"There will always be headwinds and challenges in business, regardless of the industry you operate in. The soft drink business is not exempt from this. The question is how do you respond and adapt to these headwinds and challenges? First and foremost, Coke is the market leader. (Coke CEO) Muhtar Kent, Sandy Douglas and the rest of the team have the system focused on the right things -- making sure we have the products that people want, making sure we engage with customers and consumers in the right way, making sure we are focused on flawless execution on a daily basis, making sure we are fully engaged in the conversations around our products, and making sure the system is aligned, focused and working together towards the same goals. Because of our market leadership, strong brands and diverse portfolio, we are well-positioned to capture growth as the economy picks up. People trust our brands and enjoy our products. We have a fantastic portfolio, and we are well-positioned to win in a marketplace with changing demographics and consumer preferences. Everyone I have met in the system is passionate about the business, optimistic about the future, and focused on growing the business. I am confident that it will continue to grow in the U.S. and we will continue to be the market leader."
Banker to bottler? What do you think has prepared you to run a
bottler, and not a small bottler at that?
"The most important thing that you must have to be a successful bottler is a passion for the business, and this starts with a passion for the brands and products. I grew up in Louisiana and drank Coke products every day. I cannot remember a day without a Coke experience. When I was a banker, I began to learn about bottlers and the system.
I was fortunate to have worked with several bottlers during my banking days, and I fell in love with the system. It quickly became clear to me that I wanted to be a Coke bottler, so I began to focus on learning as much as I could about bottler operations. And being a banker allowed me to have access to management, see the operations up close and go into the market where I really learned a lot about the business. I was also fortunate to have the chance to work closely with the company and some bottlers after leaving banking. This allowed me to get even closer to the operations and prove to people in the system that I have the chops to be a great bottler. Now it’s a matter of proving this as an owner/operator, which I fully intend to do."
Will you hire COO or GM with
bottling experience? If so, what kind of
person are you looking to hire?
"Yes, my plan is to hire a general manager who has proven experience in the system. My ideal candidate will have strong sales and operational experience. I want someone who can hit the ground running and immediately engage with customers and the people who love our brands -- someone who knows how to build volume and value share."
Though no one can predict the
future, assuming all goes well with these Florida markets, would you like to
acquire more territory over time, if that opportunity presented itself?
"I think if you surveyed all of the bottlers in the system, most would say that, given the opportunity, they would like to expand their territory. And I would say the same. However, my only order of business right now is making sure that the central Florida bottler is the very best it can be. Given the demographics and climate of the territory, we should be a leader in the system. This is what I am focused on. If we do this right, other opportunities may present themselves. But now is not the time to discuss or seek this. Winning and growing in central Florida is my only focus."
What are two or three of the
most important things a bottler must focus on?
"The most important things a bottler must
focus on at all times are meeting customer and consumer desires, and executing
efficiently and effectively every day.
Bottlers are on the front lines with customers and consumers, and we
must pay close attention to their desires and take a lead in delivering the right
products, packages and prices for all occasions. We must serve as the face of the brands and
be closely connected to our communities, and then use this connection to drive
growth in the business. This is how we
will win as a system over the long-term.
In terms of execution, bottlers must have laser focus on growth and
operational excellence. We must also
build organizations that are agile and adaptable. The customer and consumer landscape will
continue to change and evolve, and bottlers have to be at the forefront of
anticipating and executing through this.
If bottlers are not financially and operationally strong, with a laser
focus on execution, we cannot win as a system on a sustainable basis."
Q&A courtesy of March 14th issue of Beverage Digest.
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