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Bloomberg Businessweek 50

Q&A: Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent


What’s behind Coke’s (KO) turnaround in recent years?
The most important thing is a common vision of where we are going globally with our 300 bottling partners. Our business had a vision for the ’80s, for the ’90s. In those years we recorded pretty impressive growth, but what we had never done before was create a system vision that fully involves our bottling partners.
 
Why the renewed focus on soda?
There is tremendous potential for growth left in our business, starting with the demographics of the world and urbanization. There is a healthy appetite for investment across the global bottling system, stronger than it’s been in a very, very long time. We’ve committed to more than $30 billion globally to fund new sustainable growth over the next five years.
 
How can you boost performance during the next decade?
More innovation. More system investment. More coolers. And by remaining constructively discontent, knowing that we can always do better. Ensuring—starting with me—that there is never any room to be arrogant or to rest on your recent successes. Doubling the business in a decade, from 2010 to 2020, is achievable. Doing in 10 years what we did in the first 125 requires focus on capturing every opportunity.
 
You increased stock returns in the downturn. How?
Rather than backing away in 2009, our system committed to investing in our brands, and those investments are paying off. When we post our quarterly performance, [the results are] not because of what we did in that quarter only but what was invested three quarters ago, four quarters ago. There is enormous opportunity based on the growth of the consumer class around the world. There are 1 billion new middle-class consumers emerging in this decade.

Stanford is a reporter for Bloomberg News in Atlanta.

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