A new Coca-Cola Co. USA commercial opens with a tall man sporting a red Coca-Cola jacket and a warm smile.
“Dear future us,” he says into the camera while walking through a warehouse filled with pallets of Coca-Cola beverages. “We have a mission to help hand everyone a better world.”
The man is not an actor. He’s Curtis Long, a veteran employee of Charlotte, N.C.-based Coca-Cola Consolidated, the largest Coke bottler in the United States.
Curtis has worked for Coca-Cola Consolidated for 24 years, starting out as a filler operator when he was only 18 and working his way up to his current role as lead operator. He’s one of several Coke team members featured in the new ad, titled “Dear Future”, which highlights the company’s total beverage portfolio – from ZICO Coconut Water, to Odwalla juice, to smartwater – and shows how its people are striving to do good in the local communities they call home through a focus on education, environmental stewardship, disaster relief and more.
We spoke with Curtis a few days after filming the spot.
Tell us about your role at Coca-Cola Consolidated.
It’s my job, first and foremost, to make sure everyone in our facility is working safely and producing quality beverages. I lead two production lines, one for DASANI and a second for half-liter bottles of several of our soft drink brands.
You’ve been part of the Coca-Cola family for more than half your life! What changes have you seen?
A lot of growth! This company is of course much bigger than it was when I started, and it continues to grow. And that’s amazing to me. When I came to work here, fresh out of high school, we produced 200 SKUs, and now we deliver close to 1,000 SKUs. From juices, to waters, to energy drinks, Coke has done a great job of responding to our consumers’ evolving tastes with a variety of beverage choices. I’m proud of that.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the family-oriented culture here. We’re a tight-knit crew. The people I work with have become family. Many of my coworkers have kids I’ve watched grow up. And many have helped raise me, in a way.
Each day I proudly wear my Coca-Cola uniform, even on my way home. Coca-Cola is a well-known brand, so I’m honored to be a part of it. We’re a team, and we all take pride in what we do each day. We get up in the morning and look forward to coming to work, producing high-quality, great-tasting products, and returning home safely. Quite a few of us have worked here for decades. One of my colleagues has been here 44 years. When I think about retirement down the road, I think I might be able to catch him!
When most people think of Coca-Cola, they think of Atlanta. They don’t think of Charlotte. Many people don’t realize we’re here in the Carolinas, locally producing the drinks they enjoy, covering a lot of territory and sharing a community with them.
Speaking of the community, your team is passionate about giving back. How are you involved?
We have a stewardship program at Levine Children’s Hospital here in Charlotte. It’s open to all teammates. We help build handicap ramps for the hospital, and we’ve gotten to visit the families and bring a little joy to their day. These are the types of things people don’t realize we do. Without Coca-Cola, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to give back in the ways I have. I’m thankful for that.
What was it like to ‘star’ in a Coke commercial?
It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I was walking down the hallway when our plant manager asked me if I wanted to be in a commercial. I said, “Sure, why not!” I didn’t know if I’d get called back. But I did! And a first audition led to a second. I was nervous and wasn’t sure how well I did at the time. But the day I found out I’d be chosen to in the commercial was something I’ll never forget. It was great to get to share the news with my mom. I can’t wait to see it!