NEW DELHI: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, has said that India could become a top five market for the company by 2020.

Ahmet C Bozer, Coca Cola International President, made the prediction in remarks reported by the Economic Times, but added the qualifier "if we continue to focus on doing the right things in this market".

He indicated that planned spending of $5bn would continue. "Our investments in India are on track as we build scale, manufacturing capacity, distribution capability and a robust product portfolio to realise our business goals in India," he said.

He was speaking as the company inaugurated a franchise bottling plant at Greater Noida that can produce juice, sports drinks and water and brings to 57 the number of facilities that Coca-Cola now operates across the country.

"Our ongoing investment in the country is focused on delivering innovation, partnerships and a beverage portfolio that enhances the consumer experience, ensures product affordability and builds brand loyalty to deliver long term growth," declared Bozer.

The economic slowdown facing India was not an issue. "We don't look at one year," said Bozer, as he expressed confidence that the government would turn the situation around.

His colleague Atul Singh, Coca-Cola Pacific Group Deputy President, attributed sluggish second quarter sales growth to an early monsoon. "Seasonality matters a lot in this business," he remarked, adding that the company was exploring different strategies to counter slow growth.

These include dropping the price of its 200-ml bottles from Rs 11-12 to a flat rate of Rs 10 and supporting this move with "aggressive" advertising.

Observers have, however, noted a shift in consumer sentiment in India, as tea parlours and frozen yogurt chains grow in popularity. Health concerns are also having an impact in India, as elsewhere.

In addition, a growing number of domestic food and beverage businesses have emerged to challenge the major players.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff