Since 1886, Coca-Cola has been part of the fabric of America.
Coke started as a simple fountain beverage that was first served at a pharmacy in Atlanta. That drink became the world’s best-known brand and fueled The Coca-Cola Company's growth into a major global enterprise.
Coca-Cola today is the world’s largest nonalcoholic beverage company, with a vast portfolio of beverages. In the U.S. alone, Coke sells more than 800 products in a variety of categories and package sizes – from low- to no-sugar sparkling drinks, to organic juices, to enhanced waters, to value-added dairy.
Beyond its brands, Coca-Cola’s success in America rests on the foundation of a commitment to the people who buy products, the businesses that sell them and the local communities its 90,000 employees call home.
“If Coke was just about Coke, we wouldn’t have been around for more than 130 years,” said Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America. “We create value – and bring value – to all the people we touch at a very local level.”
In North America, the Coca-Cola business is far more than a single company. The Coca-Cola Company partners with its nearly 70 local bottlers that sell and distribute its drinks to stores in every community. These local Coke bottlers are your neighbors and friends. They invest in the communities where they live, work and play alongside Coca-Cola consumers and customers.
Local ownership of Coke bottlers is both old and new. It started that way in the early 1900s. Then, in the late 1900s, bottler ownership became centralized and consolidated. Over the last decade, The Coca-Cola Company has returned bottler ownership to where it belongs: with local entrepreneurs across North America. Coca-Cola has been selling its company-owned bottling operations in the U.S. to independent business people.
This return to local ownership is known inside the company as "refranchising." These bottlers are the backbone of the Coca-Cola system. When this process is complete, The Coca-Cola Company will return to its historic role as brand owner and builder, while bottlers will focus on the day-to-day work of making and delivering our beverages throughout the country.
The system includes businesses like Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED in Birmingham, Ala., which traces its roots to 1902. Its operations include the world’s first Coca-Cola bottling business in Chattanooga, Tenn. Coca-Cola UNITED has expanded its footprint as part of the refranchising process, adding territory in Atlanta, New Orleans and many other cities in the Southeast U.S.
“UNITED consistently invests in our associates, customers and communities – as well as in capital assets – that drive our local operating model,” said Claude Nielsen, chairman of Coca-Cola UNITED. “As we have experienced significant growth through the system transformation, we have not deviated from this local business model or from making the investments required to grow our legacy and expanded operations.”
On the other side of the country from Coca-Cola UNITED, Swire Coca-Cola USA, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is undergoing rapid growth of its own. The bottler is part of a global company and now has territory stretching across much of the Western United States. But it still thinks of itself as a local business.
"At Swire Coca-Cola, USA, we are proud of the stability and support we receive from our global parent company, Swire Pacific," said Jack Pelo, president and CEO, Swire Coca-Cola, USA. "However, the heart and soul of our company is fueled by our never-ending connection and commitment to the communities – big and small – in which we operate."
While many Coca-Cola bottlers are decades-old businesses, others are new. “I have vivid childhood memories of the local Coca-Cola bottler being a visible and supportive member of people and functions in my community,” said Troy Taylor, chairman and CEO of the new Coca-Cola Beverages Florida. “Now, we look forward to not only serving the customers and consumers of Florida but also ensuring that we are an integral part of every community we serve.”
Collectively, the U.S. Coca-Cola system is making investments that will drive the business for the next century. It’s a plan that will benefit those who sell our beverages and those who consume them. We will become an even better business partner and an even stronger member of communities across the nation.
The U.S. Coca-Cola System
- The Coca-Cola Company is completing the largest refranchising initiative in the history of business. This work is targeted for completion in 2017.
- The future U.S. Coca-Cola system will be made up of a diverse array of 70 bottlers, from multinational owners to decades-old, family-held operations.
- Most new or expanding bottlers are hiring more people. New investment in plant and equipment is underway by three segments of our system: by independent bottlers; by The Coca-Cola Company itself; and by the National Product Supply Group, which was formed by Coca-Cola and a number of key bottling partners to administer key product supply activities.
Today’s U.S. Coca-Cola system – and the larger beverage industry – has a major economic impact on the country:
- Coke and its bottler partners employ more than 90,000 men and women in 525 North American locations, with a collective payroll of $3.5 billion.
- The vast majority of the products we make are produced in the region where they are sold.
- The beverage industry has more than 225,000 direct employees and indirectly accounts for nearly 800,000 jobs in a multitude of different career areas.
- The Coca-Cola system has 5 million customers in the U.S., from major retailers to mom-and-pop shops. Beverages often account for a significant part of a customer’s profit, which helps them grow.