Sinan Altun, Commercial, Customer and Field Marketing Director of Glaceau

Sinan Altun, Global Marketing Manager of Glaceau.

In 1996, J. Darius Bikoff was checking into the purity of bottled water and didn't like that some had contaminants. He decided to create his own distilled water with added electrolytes. The resulting Smartwater, in a sleek bottle designed by Doug Lloyd, became a hit in natural and specialty food stores when it was released in 1998.
Bikoff’s company, Glacéau, also known as Energy Brands, Inc., is a beverage company based in the Whitestone section of New York City. The success of the Glacéau brand launched a new marketing category in the beverage industry: enhanced water. Glacéau's slogan is “hydrate responsibly.”

In October 2004, noted rap artist 50 Cent obtained a stake in Energy Brands, stating that he wanted to make his mark in healthful beverages.

Having understood early on the importance of the energy and vitamin beverage market in the world, Coca-Cola made the strategic decision to enter into this new market by purchasing a company with an established reputation. The company it purchased, Glaceau, accords in all respects with Coca-Cola’s strategy, even though this move from classic carbonated beverages to vitamin drinks cost the giant company USD 4.1 billion.

Chosen from among 600 candidates worldwide, Sinan Altun was appointed Global Marketing Manager responsible for fruit juices, and centered in the company headquarters in Atlanta; he was a member of the team responsible for the purchase of Glaceau. After the transfer of Glaceau, which was previously sold only within the US, to Coca-Cola, Altun was named Commercial, Customer and Field Marketing Director of the team established to launch Glaceau in markets outside the US. Altun spoke to TURKOFAMERICA about his career, the effects of the crisis, and the beverage sector:

How and when did your career at Coca-Cola begin? Your name was mentioned as the architect of the Glaceau deal, worth USD 4.1 billion, which took place this past year. What does it feel like to be part of an enterprise that can be considered a radical change in the strategy of a century-old company?

My career with Coke started in 1997 as Fanta and Bonaqua Brand Manager, responsible for the Caucasus and the Central Asian Republics, located in Istanbul. Later, I took on different responsibilities, ranging from Brand Manager to Marketing Director in the Belgium-Luxembourg region, Turkey region and Southern Eurasia region. In November 2005, I was selected as one of the top 5 marketing talents out of 600+ candidates across the globe to attend The Coca-Cola Company's Global Benchstrength Program based in its Atlanta headquarters, and became the Global Marketing Manager in the company's Non-Carbonated and New Beverages Department.

Last year, after the acquisition of Glaceau, I was appointed the Global Commercial Director to export the magic of Glaceau business to the world. I am definitely not the architect behind this acquisition but it is a fantastic feeling to take such a crucial role in its expansion around the globe.

This acquisition was one of the biggest and most important of all in our company’s history.
I am very excited and happy to be a part of this and to know that I am a key player in this change and growth opportunity for the company.
Can you tell us about the developments that have taken place in the vitamin water and energy drinks sector since 2007?

In line with the global health and wellness trend, consumer habits and attitudes are changing. The enhanced water and energy drinks segments have been two of those fastest growing segments within this change. With our marketing intelligence and strategies, we are keeping tabs of the pulse of the consumers and responding faster to their emerging needs. Today, the Coca-Cola Company has 12 billion dollar brands in addition to the ‘Coca-Cola’ brand. We are replicating the innovation and leadership model that we have used with our flagship brands with the enhanced water and energy drinks segments.

How do you expect the current crisis to affect the soft drink sector? Does the position of energy and vitamin drinks in the market show any difference in comparison to other drinks (negative or positive)?

I am a firm believer and may be a positive thinker that the world will start getting out of this crisis next year. During crisis situations, people’s consumption behavior changes in terms of when, how and how much they consume. It is more important to focus on what matters for the business and continue communicating with the consumers. Within this context, I believe the energy drinks and enhanced water segments will be important forces driving growth in the beverage industry.    

You are one of the Turkish senior managers in Coca-Cola.  Coca-Cola is the only company among the Fortune 500 to have a Turkish CEO. How does the presence of Turkish managers in top management motivate you in your work?

In the past 30 years, the Turkish economy has been through much turbulence. In these times a lot of valuable experience was gained. Turkish managers have been leveraging these experiences and capabilities around crises management, calculating risk taking, acting fast upon needs and collaborating in the companies they were managing. We are seeing more and more Turkish managers in middle and upper level positions in international companies. I am confident this will continue to increase and we will have our fair share in international organizations. Of course for me and my colleagues, seeing Turkish managers at upper management levels in the Coca Cola Company is both a source of inspiration and motivation.  

When I examined your CV I noticed that a large part of your professional life was spent at Coca-Cola. What kind of advantages has it given you to work at Coca-Cola, a world giant and the best known brand in the world?

Ever since I joined the Coca Cola Company I have had the opportunity to work in a multi cultural and multi national organization. Working at Coke helped me become a global citizen. It helped me to understand and respect different cultures in the world, to accomplish work in different geographies, to have a wider and deeper world view, to be a visionary, to develop a more flexible, result oriented and entrepreneurial management style and to build strong relationships all around the world.

If the history of Coca-Cola were to be written one day, what would you like it to say about Sinan Altun?
I would like to be remembered as one of the global influential leaders who put his heart and mind into the Coca-Cola company and with his infectious energy grew and expended many brands, most recently Glaceau, around the globe to put a smile on the faces of the world’s consumers.
Sinan Altun with his daughter, Alara.

How many days in the year do you travel? I know that you have a daughter. Are you able to spend enough time with her?

I travel half of the year. My wife Serfi, who works for Procter & Gamble, also travels a lot due to her job. The other half of the year, I try to spend with my wife and with my daughter Alara. With Alara we have our ‘father-daughter days’. Especially when Serfi is traveling, we play basketball together, swim together, watch movies and play her favorite games. I try to take all my vacation days every year. We always have 1 week winter vacation and 2 weeks summer vacation and make sure to spend quality time together in these times.
Are you able to follow what happens in Turkey? If you were to set up your own business in Turkey, would this be in the drinks sector?

I follow the agenda in Turkey as much as I possibly can. We have an amazing country and we try to quench our thirst for it by visiting often for our family holidays.  I’ve been working for the Coca Cola Company for the past 11 years and I believe that success lies in focusing on the work you do and nothing else and I am continuing on this path.

Is there anything you would like to add?    

I would hope that the Turks in the US combine their forces and support each other in more effective platforms. Thank you.

Coca-Cola is the only company in the Fortune 500 to have a Turkish CEO; Muhtar Kent has been the CEO of Coca-Cola since 1 July 2008. Coca-Cola has 5 important regional management headquarters in the world and one of these is in Istanbul. There are at least 20 Turkish senior managers at Coca-Cola.

In Istanbul, Ahmet Bozer manages the Eurasia region, which covers 93 countries. The other Turks working at Coca-Cola and their job titles are as follows:

Umut Özaydınlı (The Coca-Cola Company, Global Music Marketing Manager), Ali Nejat İpekçi (Glaceau Global, member of the Commercial Marketing team), Alev Gökçe (New Product Development Manager), Pınar Zaimoğlu (Global Marketing, Financial Analyst), Tebessüm Welch (Financial Research Manager), Güran Yet (Global Planning, Financial Director), Berna Kaçan (Ethics and Compliance Manager), Gözde Çöklü (Project Manager), Arzu Küpçüoğlu (Project Manager), Sevilay Alan Bouwer (Company Mergers)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07