Coke new president Sanket Ray flags core focus areas in 1st bottler meet

Coca-Cola India’s new president Sanket Ray has flagged faster replenishment cycles at retail outlets, deeper distribution and servicing in-home consumption as core focus areas for this year, while addressing his first all-India bottling partners meeting. Ray also told the bottling partners that Coca-Cola has identified faster and deeper distribution in smaller markets, increased focus on profitability, and more investments in manufacturing of healthier beverages as key strategies the company will focus on this year, as the beverage maker readies for a crucial summer quarter.

An email sent to Coca-Cola India seeking comments did not immediately elicit a response.

This summer is crucial for Coca-Cola, as it recovers from the pandemic-hit last year when its single biggest quarter of April-June coincided with peak lockdown months and resulted in a complete washout. Sales at core out-of-home channels for beverages such as cinema theatres, restaurants, railway stations and holiday destinations are recovering but gradually and remain under pressure. The April-June quarter accounts for over half of the Indian soft-drink industry’s annual sales of over Rs 20,000 crore, with out-of-home consumption accounting for three-fourths of the category pre-Covid.

Coca-Cola, the country’s largest beverages maker, operates through a network of 14 bottlers, including its own bottling arm Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB). HCCB remains the company’s single largest bottling partner.

Ray, who has come on board to lead the maker of Coke and Sprite aerated drinks and Minute Maid juices, succeeded outgoing president T. Krishnakumar in January this year. One of the youngest presidents of Coca-Cola India, Ray relocated from the beverage maker’s Mainland China business where he was chief operating officer.

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Following the Covid-induced lockdowns globally, Coca-Cola undertook a sweeping global reorganisation exercise, pruning 17 business units with nine larger operating units starting January 1, 2021.

The beverage maker had reported ‘solid growth’ in sparkling soft drinks volumes in India and China for the quarter ended December 2020, and stated that in-home consumption in India remained strong, while out-of-home sales were recovering though gradually. “In India, challenges remain but at-home trends were strong, and we saw signs of recovery in away-from-home channels through the holidays,” Coca-Cola chairman James Quincey said in a post earnings call earlier this month.


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