MEETING THE EXPECTATIONS

Colombia 2018 | INDUSTRY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Roberto Mercadé, President of Coca-Cola, on plant-based beverages, female empowerment, and digitizing Coca-Cola.

Roberto Mercadé
BIOGRAPHY
Roberto Mercadé has 22 years of international general management and operational system experience at Coca-Cola. In South Africa, he was General Manager of South Africa Franchise and Commercial operations. In addition, he led South Africa’s company-owned manufacturing facilities, Coca-Cola Canners, and Valpre Water. Prior to that, served as the General Manager for the Venezuela & Caribbean Franchise Unit. He has a degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What major challenges and accomplishments did the company have in 2017?

Talking about Colombia, even though it was a challenging year, there were many things that we can be proud of. For example, we had our 90th anniversary here last year and we continue to become a complete beverage company. In our search to do so, we were able to add AdeS to our portfolio, which is plant-based and is part of our efforts to expand our portfolio beyond sparkling beverages. Moreover, we are listening to our regional consumers about their needs. Through this, we have been able to reformulate about 67% of our portfolio to provide our consumers with better tasting products with lower calorie content.

What's the importance of the Colombian market for Coca-Cola?

As the third-most populous country in the region, it is an important market for us, and we have a lot of expectations for it. We want to grow in double digits here for the foreseeable future—that is what we are working on. We decided to move a significant chunk of our headquarters to Colombia for that reason. From the marketing side, 2018 is a World Cup year, and Colombia and football are synonymous. Thus, 2018 is about Coke, the World Cup, and all the passion that comes along. We are also working on the social and the environmental front. For the former, we are consolidating our social programs to focus on women's economic empowerment. We recently launched a program called “Emprendamos juntas," which aspires to economically empower 5,000 women with small shops in cities like Barranquilla, Cartagena, Valledupar, and Montería. Since these are mostly rural areas, we will invest an extra USD1 million to ensure that our plan follows through. On the environmental front, we accomplished what we set out to do two years ago, which was to return every drop of water we used in our products. Today, we are what we call “water neutral" and that has been confirmed by third party audits.

Can you tell us more about the acquisition of AdeS?

AdeS is a plant-based beverage brand that stands for “alimentos de semilla" (foods from seeds) and is a strong player in the market that originally started with soy-based beverages. Now, given consumer changes, almond is a big player within the portfolio. This is an exciting venture for Coca-Cola, and we are expecting it to be as successful as our Del Valle juices acquisition.

Can you tell us more about your initiative to reduce sugar in your beverages?

The most important aspect for a company is to listen to its consumers. We launched a no-sugar Coke after five years of hard work. Under the leadership of our new CEO, we want to become a company that's comfortable with trying new things. That's why he says that if you're not making mistakes, you're probably not trying hard enough.

How do you see the short-term market for Coca-Cola?

Latin America is arguably the most successful region in the world for the company. Given that the continent's history has not always been stable, our ability to create a tremendous business gives us tremendous hope for Colombia. We have high expectations for the foreseeable future, despite whatever road-bumps there may be.

What are your goals for 2018?

We would like to achieve double-digit growth over a sustained period of time. Given the digitalization of our communities, we want our consumers to have our product one click away. Thus, not only do we have plans to continue to expand our distribution on a national basis, we also have to play an important role in the digital world.