Coke India chases distant dream of cracking into top-three league

Coca Cola
Coca-Cola’s India unit has been eyeing the league of top five of the beverages maker’s global markets for quite some time now. James Quincey, Coca-Cola’s global chief executive, during his maiden visit to India earlier this month, set an ambitious target for India to become the third-largest market for Coke.

The target looks distant. Coca-Cola’s business in India still remains far behind China, currently the fifth-largest market for Coca-Cola globally. Consumption of Coca-Cola products in China is more than 150 per cent higher than in India.

The third- and fourth-largest markets, Japan and Brazil, respectively, consume much more than China’s 39 units of Coke beverages. Per capita consumption in Japan is 182 units and in Brazil 241 units, 13 and 17 times higher, respectively, than India’s 14 units. One unit is based on 8 fl oz of a finished beverage (close to 200 ml).

Poor consumer sentiment, low disposable income, seasonal anomalies and health concerns have dented Coca-Cola’s India sales in several previous quarters. But Coca-Cola has conceived a set of strategies that it hopes will crack the code here.

It is preparing to launch a programme to reduce sugar in its drinks by the end of 2017. The blueprint is ready and includes back to back launches of low or no sugar variants of existing drinks, fruit-based beverages and new products “Coca-Cola is broadening its portfolio in five category clusters, including sparkling, energy, dairy/juice/water/enhanced water, and ready-to-drink coffee and teas,” the company said.

The company is also working on developing larger brands in comparison with mother brand Coca-Cola. This strategy is in line with Quincey’s vision of lifting the company above the brand.

To hedge against falling sales of fizzy drinks, Coca-Cola aims to expand its portfolio to other drinks that will serve consumers at every occasion. To start with, it is working on ready-to-drink tea and coffee offerings.

Coca-Cola is also looking at increasing exports of fruit and beverage intermediaries like pulp, tea and coffee from India. The company along with its local partners exports Rs 1,800 crore worth of goods to 44 countries.

Coca-Cola earns 35 per cent of its revenue from non-carbonated beverages, which have grown faster than the carbonated drinks business in the last decade, but the company is not immediately putting a figure on where it will be in the next few years.

Looking at the future

* Developing and growing more brands besides its mother brand Coca-Cola

* Launching massive project on reduction in sugar by end 2017

* New brands and low sugary products on cards; new variants under existing products in a few months

* Increasing the portfolio to cater to 7-8 drinking occasions in a day

* Growing exports of fruit and beverage intermediaries from Rs 1,800 crore now

* More ready-to-drink tea, coffee; energy and enhanced water segments will be in focus

* Current ratio of fizzy and non-fizzy drinks in Coke’s India business: 65:35