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A Beverage Behemoth Awakens As Coke Adds Energy Drinks To Its Portfolio

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It’s still the real thing. But Coca-Cola hasn’t been shy about change over the decades. The company that launched in 1886 has gone through dozens of taglines to convey its brand, from “Drink Coca-Cola” to “Life Tastes Good,” “Taste the Feeling” and many more. Now it’s going beyond spin and slogans to stay relevant with today’s customers, launching a new portfolio of products—possibly its biggest ever —led by energy drinks.

The company made headlines at the National Association of Convenience Stores Expo in Atlanta in October when it said it is debuting energy drinks in the United States next January. But that’s only part of the story.

Coca-Cola’s also launching a baker’s dozen of other drinks and many more flavors, a major change for a company that until not long ago focused on classics and continuity. At a time when soda sales overall are flat (or declining), Coke’s looking for growth in new areas.

The company, in addition to being a giant in the carbonated beverage category, lately has been trying to enter and dominate other nonalcoholic beverage categories, such as coffee and energy drinks. Coke’s seeking to harness its brands, resources, distribution and marketing. It’s focusing on growing and expanding into new sectors, which could lead to a bigger company and, if things work out, other growing brands.

The company, based in Atlanta where the show took place, doesn’t only want to take over shelf space. It wants to eliminate the competition. The goal is to become a leader in each of the categories. The mission is to improve profitability for shareholders, grow market share, enter new markets, leverage brands and ride the tides of taste, while growing top and bottom line. Coke’s second-quarter revenues and margins rose—a double punch. At least for now, Coca-Cola is growing, even as soda is under fire.

The behemoth awakens? With a 60% market share in nonalcoholic beverages, it’s about time that Coca-Cola jumped on board with the trends. There is, nevertheless, room for growth. Simply deciding to debut Coca-Cola Energy in the U.S. already took a bite out of Monster’s stock. Expect the same with Monster’s sales. Coke is also making waves from coffee to vitamin water to energy drinks to fruit juices, smoothies and on. It’s going after nearly anything without alcohol, adding energy to the business—and not just as a drink.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey talks about a “strategy to transform as a total beverage company” in the nonalcoholic beverage space. He isn’t kidding. The company already has more than 500 brands (from Minute Maid to Powerade and beyond) in more than 200 countries and territories. What’s another dozen more? These are often in new categories.

When Coca-Cola paid $5.1 billion to buy Costa Coffee, it was betting big. Coke launched Costa Coffee ready-to-drink chilled product in Great Britain. The company wants to own the morning, building on other big brands with Dunkin’ Cold Brew Coffee. Expect Coca-Cola to try to try to stir up coffee sales with more debuts. You couldn’t be a “total beverage” company without tea. Coke’s expanding Peace Tea with three new flavors next March.

It’s rolling out Coca-Cola Cherry Vanilla and Cherry Vanilla Zero after debuting Coke Orange Vanilla this year as the first new flavor added to the Coca-Cola brand in over a decade. The company this year also rolled out Sprite Lymonade. It’s trying to cash in on the holidays with Coca-Cola Cinnamon and Sprite Winter Spiced Cranberry.

Coke even filed a number of patents in 2019 to expand its range, including a way to buy food and beverages from vending machines with cell phones. Add to that methods to produce potable water from otherwise undrinkable sources. A classic company is innovating.

It’s always nice to be number one. When Coke puts its marketing and distribution muscle behind products, magic can happen. The behemoth has woken. Let’s see where it goes now that it’s awake.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am the national leader of Marcum’s Food and Beverage Services group. I’ve been an entrepreneurial leader in accounting for over 40 years, and am a frequent lecturer and published author on various financial and business topics. My expert advice has appeared in both national and local publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, Long Island and New Jersey Business News, Supermarket News, and Food Dive. I also founded a series of best practice forums for food and beverage companies, which attract nearly 500 senior executives annually, as well as an annual food and beverage survey.

Source: A Beverage Behemoth Awakens As Coke Adds Energy Drinks To Its Portfolio

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3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

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In today’s market, companies that are not constantly evolving or changing go extinct very quickly. Back in 1950, the average age of a company on the S&P 500 was 60 years old; today, it’s 20. With so many companies failing, disappearing, or getting consolidated, transformation is critical for businesses seeking to survive, let alone compete and win.

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build.Smartsheet

Some companies are really good at transformation and continuous innovation; disruption is built into their DNA. Others struggle with their legacies of success, becoming overly focused on self preservation, which leads to slow decision making and aversion to risk.

But it’s not impossible for large companies to reinvent their business; indeed, it’s essential for their survival. During the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work at three amazing companies — all very different — each of which has been integral in transforming their industry.

Through these experiences, I learned important lessons about innovation and business transformation that can be applied to almost any company. Here are three critical keys to success:

1. Start with the customer

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build. Only by truly understanding your customers can you deliver products that they will love.

When I worked on Coca-Cola Freestyle, we knew we had to start with the consumer and figure out what they wanted, so we did a ton of research. We started with focus groups in five different cities, five groups per city, all different age groups and demographics. The insights we gathered in these sessions informed our quantitative research, in which we ultimately talked to more than 7,000 consumers.

By truly understanding consumer preferences, we were able to build the Coca-Cola Freestyle in a way that appealed to consumers, with striking results: Installing a Freestyle machine led to increased beverage sales for restaurants by 17- 20 percent, and increased Coca-Cola sales volume by 30-40 percent in those locations. What’s more, about 25 percent of consumers who knew about Freestyle told us that they chose which restaurant they went to based on whether it had a Freestyle machine!

To innovate at Smartsheet, we set out to understand what problems our customers are trying to solve and then build solutions that help them do that. Smartsheet is a cloud-based work-execution platform that makes it easy for anyone to get work done without having to wire together a bunch of other tools. Today, most of the companies chasing this market overestimate the technical bar that most business users can clear, which results in overly complex products that are not easy for most business users to adopt. At Smartsheet, we really focus on how we can meet the needs of the average business user.

Every time we build a new product, we start by writing a document called a “PR/FAQ” (Press Release/Frequently Asked Questions”), which outlines what we’re going to build — and why — before we actually go to code (an exercise I brought with me from Amazon.) This means we create the story that we want to tell customers on the day the product launches — before we actually build anything. Then, we iterate on the press release until we like what it says about the product and how it solves a problem for the customer. We validate it with existing customers. Only when we’re satisfied that what we have is the right product definition do we begin work on building the proposed product.

2. Small independent teams move faster

Once you determine what to build based on research and customer feedback, assign a small team to the project and empower them to make decisions and innovate. Keeping the team small and focused helps prevent scope creep and eliminates the management overhead required to coordinate work across a large group. It is important to establish mechanisms for the team to escalate when they need help, but try to limit the amount of energy the team has to expend reporting up. This will speed innovation.

To develop Coca-Cola Freestyle, I built a small dedicated team that was completely isolated from the rest of the organization. We reported to a board of advisors on a quarterly basis but were empowered to make decisions without having to ask for permission.This was pretty game-changing, as it allowed us to move fast, experiment and learn, and be singularly focused on capturing the opportunity we saw in the market.

Coke’s idea of isolating a small, scrappy team to work on product innovation is the Amazon model as well. In fact, Amazon has a name for it: a “two-pizza team.” Almost every new service that starts at Amazon starts with a two-pizza team — a team small enough to feed with two pizzas.

Small, scrappy teams can help you make better decisions by forcing you to make trade-offs based on the constraints faced by the team. They’re better able to innovate quickly and course correct as needed to keep the project on track.

3. Take a long view

Another key to supporting innovation is to take a long view of the business. Rather than expecting an immediate return on an innovative new idea, focus on how you’ll develop the product to best serve your target market.

At Amazon, they take a very long view of the business. When we launched a service at Amazon, no one was pushing us with the question: How fast can you get to profitability? Instead, the discussion was framed around:

●    What’s the market you’re going after?

●    How much of the market do you think you can serve with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product — the first, solid foray to market)?

●    Where do you think you’d go after that?

Rather than worry about getting a very quick return on investment, the idea is that if we build meaningful, compelling products, we’ll figure out how to make money over the long term.

At Smartsheet, we not only take a long view of our business, but also encourage our customers to do the same. For example, when customers come to us for a solution, we try to understand the problem they are trying to solve or the pain point they want our help to address. This deep understanding enables us to build solutions that are both opinionated and flexible. We bring best practices to the table, along with a real point of view on ways that our customers can change how they work, and how we can help their businesses innovate faster as they navigate a constantly changing market — now, and into the future.

Gene Farrell Gene Farrell Brand Contributor

Source: 3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

Coca-Cola’s Using Bluetooth To Help You Make Personalized Drinks

Coca-Cola Freestyle has a new Bluetooth-enabled soda machine.

Look out world, Coca-Cola is introducing beverages to Bluetooth.

On Friday, the company announced its brand new soda machine, the Coca-Cola Freestyle 9100, which will utilize Bluetooth connectivity to allow users connect via the Freestyle mobile app.

Remember how Coca-Cola Freestyle brought its innovative touch screen soda machines — stocked with close to 200 drink options — to eateries, college campuses, and other beverage-loving establishments in 2009? Well, things have really taken off since then.

According to the company, “more than 50,000 Coca-Cola Freestyle units pour 14 million drinks per day” around the world, so they figured it was time to take the innovation to the next level.

In the future, not only will people be able to concoct their own beverages, but they can use the Freestyle app to connect to the machine with Bluetooth, create a mix via their mobile devices, and ensure it’s ready to pour ASAP.

“Choice and customization are not fads – they’re here to stay,” Chris Hellmann, Freestyle’s VP general manager, said in a statement. “So we’re focused on making sure the Coca-Cola Freestyle platform stays current and contemporary and that we continue to offer more beverages people want.”

“We’ve built features into this dispenser that are not only contemporary for today,” Hellmann went on. “We’ve also future-proofed the platform with not-yet-activated features like audio capability, optical sensors and a new equipment option that will eventually support the addition of drink categories not available on Freestyle today, such as teas, cold coffees and new varieties of juices.”

Ah, the refreshing sight of Coca-Cola Freestyle machines.

The Coca-Cola Freestyle 9100 will reportedly be unveiled at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) tradeshow in Chicago this weekend. The company hopes to roll out the snazzy new machine nationally in 2019, and also has plans to implement a new Freestyle operating system across all existing machines.

WATCH: Coca-Cola coffee is a thing now and we really need to talk about your caffeine addiction

 

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