How COVID-19 Has Changed Coca-Cola's Business

Company prioritizes key brands, adjusts e-commerce

ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. is prioritizing key brands and adjusting its e-commerce business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Atlanta-based beverage company is working to ensure adequate inventory levels in key channels and prioritizing core brands and key packages, it said in its first-quarter financial update. It is also increasing investments in e-commerce to support retailers and meal delivery services by shifting toward package sizes that are ideal for online sales and redeploying consumer and trade promotions toward digital.

While the company entered 2020 with solid momentum, its net revenues declined 1% to $8.6 billion, the company said of its first-quarter performance.  

In March, as the coronavirus spread, Coca-Cola saw significant changes in consumer purchase patterns, including substantial declines in away-from-home channels.

In at-home channels, the company witnessed early pantry loading in certain markets, followed by more normalized demand levels and a sharp increase in e-commerce. Since the start of April, Coca-Cola has experienced a volume decline globally of about 25%, with nearly all of that coming from away-from-home channels.

In North America, however, unit case volume grew 3% in the first quarter, driven by strong growth in the water, enhanced water and sports drinks category, including premium brands BodyArmor and smartwater.  The first quarter also saw growth in juice, dairy, plant-based beverages and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.

The ultimate effect on the second quarter and full year is unknown at this time, according to the company.

“The company believes the pressure on the business is temporary and remains optimistic on seeing sequential improvement in the back half of 2020. The company, along with its bottling partners, is continuing to adapt quickly to the current environment, with a focus on mitigating the near-term impact while positioning for success coming out of the crisis,” Coca-Cola said in the update.

Coca-Cola continues to implement additional cleaning and sanitation routines in its facilities and is requiring most office-based employees to work remotely. It is also supporting COVID-19 relief efforts around the world and has committed to contributing more than $100 million to these programs, medical supplies and to help markets hit hardest by the pandemic to recover.

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