For Coca-Cola, 2017 was unquestionably a year of evolution.
New leadership, a new growth strategy, new brands, new innovations and a newly refranchised bottling system made headlines throughout the year as the company forged a new path ahead.
Before the calendar officially turns to 2018, let's look back at a few of our most notable news stories from the last 12 months:
'We’re Going to Be a Total Beverage Company'
Coca-Cola is evolving to become a total beverage company by reshaping its growth strategy and operating model in line with changing consumer tastes and buying habits, James Quincey said in February at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) conference. Quincey, who became CEO on May 1, said the company will focus on driving revenue growth by building and bringing to market “consumer-centric” brands – including more low- and no-sugar options and drinks in emerging categories – and prioritizing beverage transactions and value share over sales volume as it has in years past. Read more.
Coke Completes Decade-Long Effort to Return Ownership of Bottling Operations to Local Partners
In October, Coca-Cola North America concluded efforts to return ownership of bottling operations in the United States to local business owners. A diverse network of nearly 70 independent Coca-Cola bottlers – multinational owners to multigenerational family businesses – is now operating as a coordinated, but local and independent, system. Through a multi-year process known as “refranchising,” the company executed 60 transitions to its U.S. bottling partners, which included 350 distribution centers, 51 production facilities, 55,000-plus employees and over 1.3 billion physical cases of volume. Today’s fully refranchised Coca-Cola bottling system is the product of more than a decade of collaboration between The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners to develop a “21st Century Beverage Partnership Model” that better serves the changing customer and consumer landscape in the U.S. and creates a more aligned, agile and efficient network of bottlers. Read More.
Muhtar Kent Reflects on his Coca-Cola Journey and Legacy as Company’s 15th Chief Executive
Muhtar Kent, who joined Coca-Cola in 1978 after responding to a classified ad and climbed to the company’s highest office, officially passed the CEO baton to James Quincey on May 1. In this candid interview, Kent – who remains chairman of the board – reflects on his nearly nine-year tenure as the company’s chief executive and offers his thoughts on the future of the Coca-Cola system. Read more.
Two Popular Beverages From Japan Rejoin Coke’s Roster of Billion-Dollar Brands
Two popular and growing Japanese brands rejoined Coca-Cola’s roster of billion-dollar brands based on 2016 results, the company announced in February. Ayataka, a green tea brand, and I LOHAS, a premium mineral water brand, both crossed the $1 billion retail sales mark in 2016 after temporarily dropping from the list at the end of 2015 due to the strength of the U.S. dollar versus the Japanese yen. Read more.
Play Ball! Coca-Cola Named Official Soft Drink of Major League Baseball
A multi-year agreement between The Coca-Cola Company and Major League Baseball (MLB) announced in April is now refreshing baseball fans inside and outside big-league ballparks. The company and its brands are engaging baseball fans through MLB Advanced Media (BAM)’s digital platforms including MLB.com, Club web sites, MLB.com At Bat and Ballpark mobile apps, official MLB social media accounts and advertising on MLB Network and MLB.tv. Read more.
Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero Become First National Brands Inspired by Coca-Cola Freestyle
When the Sprite team began exploring options for its next flavor innovation last year, consumer data from Coca-Cola Freestyle pointed to a fan favorite. Since the interactive fountain dispensers debuted in 2009, thirsty restaurant and retail guests have added a splash of cherry flavor to their beloved lemon-lime sparkling beverage. The February launch of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero in bottles and cans marked the first time insights from Coca-Cola Freestyle inspired the national rollout of a new beverage. Read more.
Coke Zero Sugar Launches in the United States
In July, Coca-Cola North America announced plans to give Coke Zero a new name, new look and even more delicious taste. And Coke Zero Sugar is off to a solid start. In a Dec. 8 presentation at the Beverage Digest “Future Smarts” conference, Incoming Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins credited an improved recipe, popular packaging and targeted marketing focused on the brand’s partnership with ESPN College GameDay with delivering a “7 percent change in the trajectory of the business” and double-digit growth for the brand.
Topo Chico Sparkling Mineral Water Brand Joins Coke Portfolio
In October, Coca-Cola North America acquired the fast-growing Topo Chico premium sparkling mineral water. The company's Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) unit will nurture Topo Chico’s storied history and century-old values, and bring the popular brand – the clear category leader in Texas – to more people across the U.S. Topo Chico will continue to be imported from the same natural source in Cerro del Topo Chico in northern México where it has been bottled exclusively since 1895. Read more.
Storytelling Reintroduces Coca-Cola USA as Total Beverage Company With Local Roots
In August, new print, TV and online creative reminded Americans that Coca-Cola far more than the maker of the world’s best-known beverage by reaffirming its longstanding commitment to refreshing and strengthening local communities. The storytelling brings to life the people, products and character of Coca-Cola through the voices and faces of employees from every corner of the country – from a bottler in Kansas City, to a delivery driver in Anchorage, to a plant manager in Tampa, to a Coca-Cola Scholar in Dallas. Read More.
Coca-Cola Closes Acquisition of AdeS Plant-Based Beverages
The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners in Latin America officially closed the acquisition of Unilever’s AdeS plant-based beverage business in March, expanding Coke’s portfolio of functional drinks in the region. Founded in 1988 in Argentina, AdeS is the leading soy-based beverage brand in Latin America, with a presence in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. Read more.
Iconic Times Square Sign Gets 3D Makeover
The crossroads of the world is now home to the world’s first and largest 3D robotic sign. In August, Coca-Cola unveiled a new six-story digital spectacular in Times Square featuring 1,760 independently moving LED screens, choreographed to the content on display – creating a multisensory experience for the 300,000 people who pass through the busy Manhattan intersection each day. Read more.
Dairy Disruptors: Fast-Growing fairlife Milk Adds New Varieties
By pioneering new paths for consumers and the dairy industry, fairlife is shaking up the milk aisle. A focus on the fundamentals – exceptional cow care, smart and responsible farming, and sustainable agriculture – powers the fairlife mission to reinvigorate the category by concentrating milk’s natural goodness to deliver the nutrition needed to live life well. Following that same commitment to the basics, the fast-growing company’s flagship product, fairlife ultra-filtered milk, recently refreshed its packaging graphics and visual identity system (VIS). And these moves are paying off: fairlife has captured 75 percent of the value-added dairy category’s growth in 2017. Read more.
Coke Heats Up the U.S. Coffee Category with New Offerings from Gold Peak, Dunkin’ Donuts and McCafe
Dunkin’ Donuts’ line of bottled, ready-to-drink (RTD) iced coffee beverages debuted in refrigerator cases at grocery, convenience stores, mass merchandisers, and participating Dunkin’ restaurants throughout the U.S. Through an agreement announced in September 2016, Coca-Cola and its bottling partners are producing and distributing the bottled beverages in four flavors: Original, Mocha, Espresso and French Vanilla. Gold Peak, a billion-dollar iced tea brand in the U.S., also introduced two flavors of both cold-brew coffees (Salted Caramel and Almond Toffee) and bottled tea lattes (Chai and Vanilla). And long-time Coca-Cola partner McDonald’s announced plans to expand its popular McCafé coffee drinks to the beverage aisle next year with three RTD McCafé Frappes.
‘Beverages for Life’: Shareowners Get View of Coke’s Next Chapter
On April 26, Coca-Cola shareowners gathered in a space where their company’s rich heritage lives on, and left with a glimpse into its future. For the second consecutive year, The Coca-Cola Company hosted its annual shareowners meeting at the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta’s Pemberton Place – located just a few blocks from where the first Coca-Cola was poured nearly 131 years ago. And while the company’s flagship brand remains its biggest, the business is evolving in line with shifting consumer tastes and shopping trends. “The Coca-Cola Company – your company – will become bigger than the world’s best and most-loved brand,” James Quincey told a crowd of 300 shareowners. “In very simple terms, The Coca-Cola Company will be about beverages for life." Read more.
‘We Must Be More Agile:’ How a Culture Shift is Powering Coke’s Innovation Agenda
Coca-Cola is speeding its transition to a total beverage company and has a renewed focus on innovation and growth, James Quincey told more than 120 investors and financial analysts Nov. 15 at the company’s global headquarters. In Coke’s first major investor gathering since 2009, Quincey and other senior leaders explained how the company is expanding its consumer-centric product portfolio, quickly scaling wins from market to market, and embracing an experimental, test-and-learn approach. Investors had the chance to sample an international array of drinks in a range of categories tailored to evolving consumer tastes – from Coca-Cola Plus Coffee (Japan and Australia), to ready-to-drink coffees like Georgia Cold Brew (Korea) and Barista Bros (Mexico), to innocent smoothies (Western Europe) and enhanced hydration offerings like vitaminwater active and Honest Sport (United States). The company also showcased several equipment innovations, including cutting-edge coolers and dispensers, as well as creative e-commerce solutions that put the company’s brands within a “click’s reach of desire” and new sales and commercial execution technologies that support Coke's "total beverage company" vision.
Royal Bliss Line of Premium Mixers Launches in Spain
In February, Coca-Cola Spain introduced a line of premium mixers with complex, nuanced flavors available exclusively in glass bottles in restaurants and bars. Royal Bliss, Coke’s first new brand launch in Spain in a decade, features eight varieties including a zero-sugar option. Read more.
American Beverage Association
Beverage Taxes Remain Controversial in Local Communities
Beverage taxes in the U.S. remained a polarizing topic in 2017, with some cities enacting new taxes and others blocking or repealing legislation. On New Year’s Day, Philadelphia implemented a 1.5-cents per-ounce tax on beverages with sugar and low- and no-calorie sweeteners. Consumers, small businesses and beverage company employees have voiced their opposition to the tax and continue to advocate for its repeal. Out West, voters in Santa Fe, N.M. rejected a beverage tax, while the Seattle City Council passed one. In October, Cook County, Ill. citizens successfully petitioned the Board of Commissioners to repeal a short-lived tax. Coca-Cola and its industry peers maintain there is a better way to help people reduce consumption of added sugars from beverages.