Coke CEO Makes Presence Felt in China

Image Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent checked another Chinese city off the list on Oct. 24, traveling to Shijiazhuang to open the Atlanta-based beverage giant's 43rd bottling plant in the country. Though unknown to many Americans, Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei province, which has more than 72 million people.  The fact that Coke spent $106 million on the new plant in partnership with COFCO, its Chinese bottling partner, shows that it sees such cities as anything but obscure. In fact, they're central to a three-year, $4 billion China investment plan that culminates in 2014.

Over the last few years, Mr. Kent has often found himself in seemingly far-flung locales like Urumqi, the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang province, or Nanchang, the capital of Jiangxi province in central China.

In between, he's been promoting the Coca-Cola brand and engaging with the China story, showing that for Coke, the country is more than just 1.3 billion thirsty mouths. It's also a source of talent and innovation. The juice drink Minute-Maid Pulpy was developed in China in 2005 and in five years became the company's 14th brand to reach $1 billion in sales.

Mr. Kent was one of  the Fortune Global Forum in Chengdu in June, where he said Coca-Cola "exports talent" from China.

The day before announcing the new plant, Mr. Kent was among a group of foreign executives meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In an unorthodox turn, as foreign firms have recently been hit with criticisms by Chinese state media, Mr. Xi praised them and sought their advice on improving China's economy, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Coke has a stake in things going well. China is its No. 3 market, and the company employs 50,000 people across the country.  The 42-acre Shijiazhuang plant alone will employ 2,000 people. It will start by operating lines for sparkling and still beverages, initially making Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, and Minute Maid. Three more lines are planned for the next few years. (by Trevor Williams,
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07