For companies that make consumer products – companies like Coca-Cola – the global marketplace is changing faster than ever.
And nowhere is the pace as rapid as in the vast, diverse Asia Pacific region.
“In a sense, our experience in Asia Pacific is a microcosm of our whole company’s evolution,” said Coca-Cola President and CEO James Quincey. “Our business is in constant motion.”
Quincey gave a keynote address to fellow industry leaders today at the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) in Singapore. CGF is a global organization of retailers and consumer goods manufacturers.
We gathered a few of Quincey’s observations about Coca-Cola and the industry overall.
On what’s driving changes in consumer products
“At the core of this change is the rapid and exponential growth of digital technologies. … The rate of mobile-only users in China is four times that of the U.S. The online-to-offline meals market in China is $30 billion. What’s $30 billion? It’s the size of the entire restaurant industry in Italy. And that’s just appeared in the last few years.”
On connecting with consumers today
“The digital age rewrites what we will be able to do. … Think about the opportunities of digital marketing to create new points of connections with consumers. Robert Woodruff, who was the long-time, quasi-founder of The Coca-Cola Company, had one of his famous sayings, which was, 'I want to put a Coke within an arm’s reach of desire'. The digital revolution is changing that expression … Now it’s going to be about putting a Coke within a click’s reach of desire. Digital tools simply give consumers another way to express their choice and another way for us to meet their needs.”
On what’s different about the digital age
“We think about how we can be a part of their lives, how we can make sure it’s not just the brand they love [but also] the package size, the way they want it. … We have taken an aggressive approach to this challenge over the last three years with a strategy that is very much centered on creating a consumer-centric portfolio.”
On listening to consumers
“Ultimately, listening will be about respect. Listening to people as they focus on health and wellness. Listening to their concerns about nutrition, their focus on energy, their desire for indulgence, for a pick-me-up. Listening as they ask good questions about our packaging. Listening as they ask about our products and brands and what they stand for.”
On the idea of brand edge
“One clear trend we’re hearing is that it’s only going to be the brands with edge that are going to become the leaders. Brands with edge: They have something that they stand for. While it’s good to listen to your consumers, it’s also important to give them something to respond to. Time after time, when brands show they stand for something… consumers respond. The rise of a digital and a data-driven world makes listening in one sense much easier – you hear so much more. But it’s important… that we can move past what sometimes can be noise so that we really focus on the signals that matter.”
On evolving consumer demand
“All of us in the consumer products space operate in a portfolio approach in one way or another. We want to meet the market wherever it wants to be, and that means we have to evolve how we think about our portfolios. For much of Coca-Cola’s history, we were actually one product. … As we’ve evolved over the last decade, we’ve really looked at the portfolio and married the idea of what’s the beverage, what’s the drinking moment for the consumer. … As we’ve been doing this, we’ve been embracing the core of what in a way The Coca-Cola Company has always been. A company which knows how to build brands, nurture brands and keep brands relevant.”
On testing, learning and scaling-up new products
“It’s essential that we foster an environment where we test, learn and scale up what works. … [The Innocent brand in Europe] is an example that has gone from being new, up-and-coming and is now the leader in chilled [juices] in Western Europe. … Literally, the kitchen where we developed new flavors and categories is right in the center of the office on the ground floor.”
On the role of business in the world
“At Coke, we’ve embraced the belief that our place in the world depends on the health of the world. So we strive for a world without waste, a world with clean water and a world with opportunities wherever we operate and do business. … Sustainability is not a department. It’s how we do business. It’s who we are, and it’s how we operate.”
On the idea of shared opportunity
“Shared opportunity can mean many things, and all of us can attest to what shared opportunity looks like when hundreds of millions of people rise out of poverty and into the middle class. … We have to continue to support that by empowering and inspiring our consumers, our customers and rising to meet their increasing expectations. We have to deliver on brands that excite, that surprise, brands with something to say. When we deliver on all those things, we can participate fully in the opportunity that follows. … That’s an opportunity and a future we all should be excited about. … We are on a rising tide, and the opportunities for all of us are great.”