Carbonated soft drink sales may be sliding, but the world’s biggest soda maker hasn’t been watching idly. Over the past nearly two years, as its has transitioned leadership following James Quincey’s appointment as CEO last May, The Coca-Cola Company has accelerated efforts to solidify itself as a “total beverage company,” a phrase often seen in the company’s official communications. The company spent $220 million to add Texas-based mineral water brand Topo Chico to its Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) portfolio last year, and recently became the second-largest shareholder and new distribution partner of BodyArmor after its departure from the Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) stable of allied brands. Those acquisitions have been complemented by cross-category innovation, which includes everything from the academic (launching a ready-to-drink iced coffee line with Dunkin’ Donuts) to the aggressive (the millennial-minded revamp of Diet Coke that premiered in January).
Speaking with BevNET at the NACS show, Susan Gambardella, vice president of convenience retail for Coca-Cola North America, explained how the company is implementing its “total beverage” strategy within the C-store channel, including how it is balancing a hydration portfolio with different use occasions and functional benefits. The interview also includes a discussion of BodyArmor’s integration into the Coke distribution system, the expansion of the Dunkin’ Donuts partnership, and new innovations debuted at the show — including new smoothies from juice brand Simply and the premiere of Far Coast Coffee, Coke’s first ready-to-drink cold brew drink.