Coke puts faith in US

03 December 2010

ATLANTA: The US trading climate will return to pre-crisis levels in the future, with innovation playing a key role in this process, according to Muhtar Kent, ceo of Coca-Cola.

"I certainly understand the anxiety and frustration that exists out there today. The past two years of economic plight have been tough," Kent said at an event organised by the National Press Club.

"Families have suffered. Communities have suffered. Too many jobs have been lost and too much wealth has vanished."

Despite describing himself as "unabashedly optimistic", Kent argued conditions were seemingly improving.

"We have a long way to go to get our American business back to the growth levels we envision, but the journey has begun," he said. "These past two quarters, we've grown volume in North America for this first time in five years."

"Our darkest days have passed," he added. "We're beginning to see the first rays of light through that long, dark tunnel."

Kent outlined a view that governmental expenditure in areas such as education and encouraging business start-ups, alongside facilitating foreign trade, would be vital.

"If we - together - create the right climate for investment, entrepreneurship and competitiveness, there is no limit to how far we can advance over the coming decade," he suggested.

"For the last 124 years, Coca-Cola has grown up right beside America. We have reinvented and renewed ourselves countless times, just like this great nation."

The current advantages possessed by the US, Kent proposed, are a diverse population, a leading higher education system, equal opportunities for women and an unrivalled track-record concerning R&D.

More broadly, Kent stated that observable patterns in the US also appear to supply reasons for hope.

"Our bullishness on America is not some form of blind optimism," he said. "There are trends and dynamics here that are real and tangible and have long-term positive implications."

Among Coca-Cola's recent innovations is the "free style" fountain dispenser, which enables shoppers to choose between 100 different drinks, or combine them if they wish.

"We believe it is going to be a game-changer for us. It gives consumers more choice. It gives us real-time data about consumer preferences," Kent said.

Looking forward, Coke's ceo asserted that the outlook was bright, and afforded the US a central role in doubling the company's revenues by 2020.

"I believe we're not only going to see a return to pre-2008 conditions but we're also going to witness potentially unprecedented levels of growth and prosperity … in the years to come," he said.

"We can't achieve our global targets without a strong and sustainable business in America. And we certainly can't do it without a strong and healthy American economy in the coming decade."

While Coca-Cola, like most FMCG firms, is turning increased attention towards emerging markets such as Russia and China, Kent argued this could benefit its home country.

"Our business in China is creating jobs and economic stimulus right here in the US," he said.

In demonstration of this, he revealed that 80% of the orange pulp from its plant in Auburndale, Florida was now exported to China.

Data sourced from Coca-Cola; additional content by Warc staff