The Coca Cola Company’s Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) unit announced the departure of president and general manager Scott Uzzell this morning, as the 18-year company veteran will leave next month to become president and CEO of footwear and apparel company Converse, a division of Nike, Inc.
In a message to staff and bottling partners shared with BevNET, Coca-Cola North America president Jim Dinkins praised Uzzell as a valuable member of the company’s executive team during his time serving in a variety of roles at Coke.
“Under Scott’s leadership, VEB has been dedicated to identifying and nurturing the next series of billion-dollar brands for The Coca-Cola Company,” Dinkins wrote. “For example, VEB has helped integrate into our portfolio brands such as fairlife, Topo Chico, ZICO, Hansen’s, Blue Sky and Hubert’s. In addition, Scott has accelerated VEB’s work as CCNA’s Futurist, Investor, Incubator and Integrator, which enables VEB to sharpen its focus on spotting trends, investing in them, incubating brands quickly, and ultimately integrating them into our broader system.”
Uzzell joined Coke in 1993 as part of the company’s Minute Maid unit. He has held positions in the company’s Strategy & Planning Division, McDonald’s U.S. Division, Global Marketing and at coconut water brand ZICO, an early VEB investment that he helped guide as it was in the process of being fully acquired by Coke in 2013 and for which he subsequently served as EVP and COO. He was named as VEB’s second-ever president and GM in 2014.
Uzzell’s departure marks the end of a year of upheaval at VEB. On March 1, Matthew Mitchell, VP, Strategy and Venturing, announced his departure from the group to head a new “Emerging Growth Platforms” team in Tokyo for Coca-Cola Japan. A series of further shake ups within the unit followed later that month, and, just two weeks ago, an internal memorandum was issued detailing structural changes set to take effect in the new year, including staff reductions and a shifting of select brands into the broader Coke system.
All the while, VEB has continued to pursue investment opportunities. In August, it became the largest shareholder in upstart sports drink brand BODYARMOR, while yesterday the unit announced it had led a $15 million investment round in Iris Nova, the parent company of premium functional beverage maker Dirty Lemon.
The latter play — a strategic, growth-minded investment in a modest but rapidly scaling and disruptive brand with limited distribution — may be a sharper focus for VEB going forward. As part of the restructuring announced earlier this month, several brands that had been acquired by VEB, as well as its Natural Channel Sales Team, were “graduated” into other divisions within the Coke system. Uzzell noted at the time that the moves would empower VEB to “keep a rich pipeline of brands flowing into the CCNA business” by identifying trends, investing quickly and supporting founders “so that when brands are thoughtfully graduated into CCNA they can scale with success.”
Uzell’s final day at VEB will be Jan. 8, 2019. Dinkins wrote that Uzzell is “committed to helping us ensure a smooth transition to the successor for this very important role, who will be announced in the New Year.”
He will assume the roles of Converse president and CEO effective Jan. 22.
“Scott’s unique blend of experience driving both strategic business growth and strong brand development is well-suited to help unlock the full potential of the Converse Brand and lead its next phase of growth globally,” said Nike president of categories and product Michael Spillane in a press release.