ATLANTA – Coca-Cola today announced that Sandy Douglas will retire as president of Coca-Cola North America (CCNA), closing a remarkable three-decade career with the company. He’ll be succeeded by James L. “Jim” Dinkins, a respected Coke leader who currently serves as head of the Minute Maid Business Unit and Chief Retail Sales Officer for CCNA.

Douglas has played a pivotal role in guiding CCNA’s resurgence. The group has grown value in sparkling brands, while introducing a large number of new products across a wide range of beverage categories. CCNA also has successfully launched and grown smaller package choices, such as mini cans.

We spoke to both executives about the leadership transition and what it means for Coca-Cola’s flagship market. Dinkins begins his new duties Jan. 1, 2018, and Douglas will retire from the company March 1, 2018.

Sandly Douglas
Sandy Douglas, who joined Coca-Cola in 1988, has been a driving force in transforming the company's flagship market for long-term, sustainable success. He will retire on March 1, 2018.

We’re seeing a tremendous amount of change in the industry, especially in the North American market. What have you done to navigate CCNA through this period?

Douglas: Over the last decade, our team has been able to return CCNA to sustainable growth and transform the business to help ensure that its success can continue for years to come. I’m especially proud of our refranchising efforts. This has been an enormous project, and we’re putting our system back in the hands of independent bottlers. The process in the U.S. is very close to being completed.

I feel great about what lies ahead, because I have tremendous confidence in our company’s vision under the leadership of James Quincey. Jim Dinkins is the ideal person to step in to lead the next chapter of growth for CCNA. His proven leadership with our customers and in expanding our portfolio of juices, natural health beverages, chilled tea and value-added dairy gives him the breadth of experience and skills required for this role. We have a talented CCNA leadership team, the right growth strategy and a system of approximately 90,000 associates who have executed beautifully to get us to where we are today.

Dinkins: Sandy has led CCNA during a period of massive changes in our industry. I appreciate his support and hope to advance on his great work, particularly in transforming our North America system and cultivating an outstanding senior leadership team. It’s humbling to be selected for a role that has been held by such a passionate, visionary leader as Sandy.

Why is this the right time for a leadership transition?

Douglas: As reported through the second quarter, our North American business has been operating from a position of strength. A couple of years ago, James Quincey and I created a plan to set up CCNA for long-term, sustainable growth. Since then, we have evolved our growth strategy, continued expanding our total beverage portfolio and worked to complete our refranchising plan.

Throughout this transformation, our business has been able to perform well in a very competitive industry, while leading growth among all large consumer goods companies in North America, as reported through the second quarter. I had a personal goal to retire from the company after completing the plan we laid out. After 30 years with Coca-Cola, the time is right for me to pursue my other interests and to enjoy time with my family.

What needs to happen in the short term to continue momentum in North America?

Dinkins: We can never stand still in this fast-changing marketplace. We have to continue following the consumer by accelerating innovation and expanding our portfolio to give people the beverages they want. We must continue building capabilities to better serve consumers and customers in an increasingly digital world. I’m passionate about fostering an agile and entrepreneurial culture where our people are empowered to test new ideas and put them into action quickly.

Sandy, what have been the most significant changes in the business?

Douglas: Our entire strategy over the past decade has been focused on evolving our business for the future. First, we saw the opportunity to redesign the economic model with our independent bottling partners. We worked together to re-write bottling contracts that had been in place for decades, and refranchising was the catalyst to make those changes. We’ve created an aligned system that is focused on creating value, which shifts us away from our traditional focus on sales volume. That change is much more than just a business tactic. It’s a strategy that ensures the system has the right incentives in place. We’ve also accelerated innovation and expanded our portfolio. We’ve had great success with internal innovations like Gold Peak tea. Our Venturing & Emerging Brands unit, which turned 10 years old this year, has brought some great brands into our portfolio, like Honest Tea, Zico coconut water and fairlife dairy products. VEB is continually working on a future pipeline of new products in growing categories.

Quincey Dinkins Douglas
President and CEO James Quincey (left), Jim Dinkins and Sandy Douglas

Jim, what do you think are the biggest opportunities ahead for Coca-Cola in North America?

Dinkins: Sandy often talks about how cool it is to play for a team that’s winning championships even though we’re not very good yet. I love that analogy, because it means we have to continue striving to get better every day. Our consumers’ wants and needs are changing, our customers are becoming more complex and, of course, we must improve our own capabilities so we can make our day-to-day work easier and get new products and ideas into the market faster. In a way, we’re still in the early stages of our journey to truly become the best and most consumer- and customer-centric consumer goods company in North America. And that’s very exciting for me personally.

Forward-Looking Statements

This Q&A may contain statements, estimates or projections that constitute “forward-looking statements” as defined under U.S. federal securities laws. Generally, the words “believe,” “expect,” “intend,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “project,” “will” and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements, which generally are not historical in nature. Forward-looking statements are subject to certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from The Coca-Cola Company’s historical experience and our present expectations or projections. These risks include, but are not limited to, obesity and other health-related concerns; water scarcity and poor quality; evolving consumer preferences; increased competition and capabilities in the marketplace; product safety and quality concerns; perceived negative health consequences of certain ingredients, such as non-nutritive sweeteners and biotechnology-derived substances, and of other substances present in our beverage products or packaging materials; an inability to be successful in our innovation activities; increased demand for food products and decreased agricultural productivity; changes in the retail landscape or the loss of key retail or foodservice customers; an inability to expand operations in emerging and developing markets; fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates; interest rate increases; an inability to maintain good relationships with our bottling partners; a deterioration in our bottling partners' financial condition; increases in income tax rates, changes in income tax laws or unfavorable resolution of tax matters; increased or new indirect taxes in the United States and throughout the world; increased cost, disruption of supply or shortage of energy or fuels; increased cost, disruption of supply or shortage of ingredients, other raw materials or packaging materials; changes in laws and regulations relating to beverage containers and packaging; significant additional labeling or warning requirements or limitations on the marketing or sale of our products; an inability to protect our information systems against service interruption, misappropriation of data or breaches of security; unfavorable general economic conditions in the United States; unfavorable economic and political conditions in international markets; litigation or legal proceedings; failure to adequately protect, or disputes relating to, trademarks, formulae and other intellectual property rights; adverse weather conditions; climate change; damage to our brand image and corporate reputation from negative publicity, even if unwarranted, related to product safety or quality, human and workplace rights, obesity or other issues; changes in, or failure to comply with, the laws and regulations applicable to our products or our business operations; changes in accounting standards; an inability to achieve our overall long-term growth objectives; deterioration of global credit market conditions; default by or failure of one or more of our counterparty financial institutions; an inability to renew collective bargaining agreements on satisfactory terms, or we or our bottling partners experience strikes, work stoppages or labor unrest; future impairment charges; multi-employer pension plan withdrawal liabilities in the future; an inability to successfully integrate and manage our Company-owned or -controlled bottling operations; an inability to successfully manage our refranchising activities; failure to realize the economic benefits from or an inability to successfully manage the possible negative consequences of our productivity initiatives; failure to realize a significant portion of the anticipated benefits of our strategic relationship with Monster; inability to attract or retain a highly skilled workforce; global or regional catastrophic events, including terrorist acts, cyber-strikes and radiological attacks; and other risks discussed in our Company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2016 and our subsequently filed Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, which filings are available from the SEC. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date they are made. The Coca-Cola Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.