Video: How Coke’s VEB Unit Incubates Brands For Long-Term Growth

Coca-Cola’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit is charged with one very ambitious goal: to find and develop the next billion-dollar brands for the cola giant. Created in 2007, VEB has made a number of key financial investments in a range of entrepreneurial brands in on-trend beverage categories including Honest Tea, ZICO, and Illy Issimo. Most recently, sources within Coke have indicated that Core Power, a milk-based sports and nutrition drink, will likely be the next outside investment for VEB. The investment follows a consistent path for VEB in focusing on a range of different products in its portfolio, all guided by a mantra of satisfying an unmet consumer need.

At BevNET Live Summer 2012, Tom Larsen, a longtime executive at Coke and the current brand manager for Illy Issimo, discussed VEB’s approach to incubating the iced coffee brand, one developed in partnership with Illycaffe, an international coffee company based in Trieste, Italy. Larsen detailed insights on how VEB has incubated and focuses on patient and careful development of the Illy brand.

“It’s building from bottom up, building over time,” Larsen said. “It’s about going very deep and winning in top major markets: NYC, LA, and Miami.”

Larsen also discussed branding points and areas of execution critical to the success of ZICO and Honest Tea as well as notes for entrepreneurs on how to sell into the Coke distribution system.

Watch this excerpt of Larsen’s speech in this video, and check out the full version and several other videos of talks and panels from BevNET Live at, BevNET’s on-demand video learning site.