Coca‑Cola CEO James Quincey: ‘We Have a Clear Strategy for How We Want to Come Out of This Crisis’


COVID-19 is driving The Coca‑Cola Company to “double down” on plans to streamline its beverage lineup and modernize its marketing, Chairman and CEO James Quincey said Sept. 10 at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference.

The company’s Beverages for Life strategic transformation was well underway before the pandemic, but the global crisis is speeding the changes. The company is paring down its portfolio to focus on category-leading brands with the greatest potential to scale and grow.

“This is a golden opportunity for us to accelerate the curation of the portfolio that was an ongoing need, and actually bring all of that to fruition in a much shorter timeframe,” Quincey said during a virtual interview with Barclays Capital Analyst Lauren Lieberman. “We believe it will set us up with more momentum behind stronger brands as we come out of this crisis.”

The company recently announced plans to drive this strategy through a more networked global organization led by nine operating units, five marketing category leadership teams and a new Platform Services organization. Platform Services will provide data management, consumer analytics, digital commerce and social/digital media expertise to “make sure the consumer remains at the center of every decision we make,” Quincey said.

This new operating model will balance agility and local experimentation with discipline to prioritize the biggest regional or global opportunities. 

“We really need to converge on disruptive innovations that are actually going to move the needle, not just in the marketplace, but at a scale that's relevant to The Coca‑Cola Company,” Quincey said, citing the early success of AHA flavored sparkling water in the United States and the continued international rollout of Coca‑Cola Energy.

At the heart of the company’s strategy, Quincy said, are the consumer’s evolving needs and tastes. “What we've seen over recent years is the blurring of categories,” Quincey said. “People want diversity and are starting to see brands across multiple categories rather than everyone staying in their swim lane.”

Quincey noted the recent rollout of the company’s first-ever alcoholic beverage in Japan, Lemon-Do, and the upcoming launch of Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in Latin America.   

“Our experimentation is going to obey the logic both of looking through the consumer lens, looking through the customer lens, and also from the perspective of can we achieve quality leadership,” Quincey said. “Just because there's an opportunity and the ability to dip your toe in the water and do something small does not mean it should be done.”

The Coca‑Cola Company has seen overall improvement in volume growth since April, when the business took its biggest hit at the onset of the pandemic.

“We saw that with COVID, where we acted boldly in the second quarter… that worked for us and gave us the encouragement to accelerate,” Quincey said. “To be bold, be decisive and go forward.”