Coca-Cola India, the Indian arm of the world’s largest beverage company, aims to double the number of cases it sells in the country to two billion units in the next five years, a quarter of the time it took to get to a billion unit-cases, which it achieved in 2019.
On his visit to Mumbai on Monday, James Quincey, CEO of The Coca-Cola Co., said that India had become the NYSE-listed company’s fifth-largest market globally (by volume) and was on its way to becoming the third-largest in the near future.
“India is a super attractive market to invest and grow the business in. The objective is to create growth here in line with the company’s purpose of making a difference…through the fruit circular economy, the growth of shopkeepers, bottlers, and farmers,” Quincey said.
Coca-Cola has committed to investing $1.7 billion by 2023 to grow what it calls the fruit circular economy in India. As a part of this, it wants to invest in the entire fruits supply chain—right from working with farmers to grow high-quality fruits to processing them for fruit-based drinks and creating a line for finished products to be marketed in India.
Quincey also noted that Coca-Cola wants to reduce the carbon footprint even as it grows its business in India. And for this, it wants to collect the PET (plastic) bottles in which its beverages are sold to the consumer and convert them into food-grade PET containers.
Reducing sugar content in its drinks is also a top priority for the company in the country, according to T. Krishnakumar, president, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia.
In the latest edition of the Access to Nutrition Index, which ranks food and beverage companies by their approach to nutrition, Coca-Cola ranked fifth. Krishnakumar said Coca-Cola India wants to bring down the sugar content of its offerings to below 6 gm over the next three to four years and had already begun working on this. “In the last 8-10 months, we are, in a systematic manner, reducing the sugar content across brands such as Thums Up and Maaza,” he said. “New products are being formulated with low sugar levels—across sparkling and still beverages—[the] salience of low-calorie versions of existing brands is also increasing.”
As a part of growing volumes in India, Coca-Cola will also be launching new products across categories such as enhanced hydration, nutritious dilutable, and beverage-plus (like fruit-based snacks).
When asked if the recent law and order disturbances across the country owing to mass agitations in protest of the proposed Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens had any impact on business in general, Quincey said any kind of disruption in the functioning of society was a problem for all businesses. “India is a vibrant democracy and needs to work out what’s going on. We hope that things get resolved in an appropriately democratic manner,” Quincey said.
On the impact of coronavirus on the company’s global operations, Quincey said that Coca-Cola was insulated from any short-term impact since it has buffers and contingency plans for such situations and has “plenty of safety stock” for its products. If the coronavirus becomes a global epidemic of exponential proportions, that would be a different case, he added. Quincey also said that due to the practice of regionally dispersed manufacturing—close to the end-market—that Coca-Cola follows, there was an inherent resilience in its business model.