Coca-Cola India investments on track despite Covid-19 disruptions

The company on Tuesday announced it would be launching two new products under its 13-year-old juice brand Minute Maid, in a bid to strengthen its non-carbonated drinks portfolio.
Coca-Cola, the country’s top beverage maker, on Tuesday said its investment plans were on track despite Covid-19-led disruptions, which had affected business significantly in the April-June period. 

The lockdown in India had brought down the global major’s consolidated volumes for sparkling drinks by 12 per cent in the April-June period, with the Asia-Pacific region in particular seeing a sharp volume decline of 18 per cent.

T Krishnakumar, president and chief executive officer, Coca-Cola India & South West Asia, said the company had utilised half of its $1.7 billion (or Rs 11,000 crore) investment announced in 2017. While the $5 billion (or Rs 35,000) investment announced earlier (in 2012) would be closed this year.

The $1.7-billion investment was set aside to build a farm-to-fork ecosystem and ensure a steady supply of local fruits for its juice business, while the $5-billion investment was earmarked for creation of retail infrastructure, bottling plants and introduction of new products among other initiatives. 

The company on Tuesday announced it would be launching two new products under its 13-year-old juice brand Minute Maid, in a bid to strengthen its non-carbonated drinks portfolio. While fizzy drinks remain key to Coca-Cola’s India operations, analysts estimate that a third of its business in the country now comes from non-fizzy drinks as consumers increasingly become health-conscious. 

Krishnakumar admitted that the firm was accelerating the pace of launches under its non-carbonated beverages portfolio, including juices, dairy and hydration, as health becomes the top priority for people following the pandemic. 

Vita Punch and Nutri Force, the two new launches, would build its ‘fruit nutrition’ platform under Minute Maid, Krishnakumar said, saying the segment would be strengthened in the future. In addition, the firm was also shifting its attention to in-home consumption, as out-of-home consumption remained low owing to localised lockdowns and the fear among people of catching the virus. 

While Coca-Cola’s beverage business in the country had shown signs of revival in the past few weeks, led by an uptick in rural areas, Krishnakumar said a return to normalcy would take a few more quarters. 

The company, he said, was stepping up focus on offline grocery channels, pushing its products aggressively on online platforms and making available its drinks at affordable price points to take advantage of in-home consumption.

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