BOSTON — Investing in e-commerce and assisting smaller, entrepreneurial companies could elevate profits for the Coca-Cola Co., said J. Alexander M. “Sandy” Douglas, executive vice-president and president of Coca-Cola North America.
Technology is changing the way Coca-Cola serves its consumers, customers and employees, he said in a Sept. 5 presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston. Industry should not think of e-commerce as a channel, he said.
|J. Alexander M. “Sandy” Douglas, executive vice-president and president of Coca-Cola North America.|
“It’s a way,” Mr. Douglas said. “It’s a way for consumers to research, to buy and to experience brands and then ultimately to have them fulfilled, and the biggest problem we have within home consumption in our business is out of stocks.”
Being on a list and part of a commerce routine that delivers regularly can help Coca-Cola capture that opportunity, he said. Brick-and-mortar outlets are using e-commerce to reach consumers, too, he said. On-line shopping allows people to refill needed in-home items.
On the restaurant side, pizza orders have moved onto apps, he said.
“Our instance of beverage attachment, if we’re well merchandised on a digital app, is 50% higher than on telephone,” Mr. Douglas said.
As for entrepreneurs, hundreds of new products are launching every year, Mr. Douglas said.
“But once they’re successful, they all have the same kind of issues, issues like buying, procurement, like selling, distributing, manufacturing and capital,” he said.
The Coca-Cola Co. may provide assistance, he said, giving Honest Tea and fairlife as examples. The Coca‑Cola Co. acquired Honest Tea in 2011, and it is the distribution partner for the products fairlife creates, markets and sells.
“It’s how we think about growth and innovation in a world where increasingly lots of people have ideas, and the retail infrastructure is allowing them to bring them to market,” Mr. Douglas said. “We can be helpful, and it can feed our growth long term.”
Mr. Douglas also talked about the status of two brands, Smartwater and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. Recent competition, including the launch of Lifewtr from PepsiCo, Inc., has affected the premium water category.
“Smartwater took a hit, lot of competition,” Mr. Douglas said.
Marketing plans are in place for the brand.
“We took some price on Smartwater at the beginning of the year, probably wasn’t the best timing to be honest, given all the competition that entered the market,” he said. “Our plan for next year for Smartwater is terrific. It’s marketing driven, and we think that part of the category is going to continue to be exciting, and we think Smartwater will do really well.”
Mr. Douglas also addressed replacing Coca-Cola Zero with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which went into effect in August. He said some people questioned why the company would make such a change after the lessons it learned from the New Coke launch more than 30 years ago.
“But the reality is that the change in this one versus the last one (New Coke) is small, but it makes it taste more like Coke,” he said. “And when people try it, they love it, and we’ve tested it like crazy.”
Having “zero sugar” in the beverage’s name could be beneficial, too.“One-third of American consumers did not know Coke Zero had zero sugar,” Mr. Douglas said. “So Coke Zero Sugar, we should improve on that number.”