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Adapting Means Winning For Coca-Cola

By Maev Martin
Adapting Means Winning For Coca-Cola

At the start of every year, Coca-Cola HBC takes a long, hard look at the previous 12 months and tries to capture the key elements that really made a difference to its stakeholders and its performance. This year, with the pandemic as the context, it was a more complex assessment, writes Zoran Bogdanovic, CEO, Coca-Cola HBC

 However, from the outset, one thing that struck me was the way that our people and our business had adapted – rapidly, with great care for all stakeholders and with an incredible focus on our priorities.

I believe that this has been at the heart of our ability to ‘win’ in the last 12 months. It is clear to me that as consumers and customers demand more, it will be those that can adapt the fastest, and the smartest, that will win.

The World Economic Forum recently highlighted critical thinking and problem-solving as being among the skills that will be needed in the next five years.

These need to be complemented by self-management, active learning, resilience, and agility. I am particularly proud of the ways in which every single part of our business demonstrated these skills over the last 12 months.


The more I reflect, the more I realise how far we have come in building this operational agility into our culture.

This crisis has reinforced the truism that the contribution of every person, irrespective of their job level or grade, matters and is uniquely precious.

It is the contribution and response of every person that determines our collective success, and it is precisely this agility and adaptability that played a critical role in our performance during the most challenging year we have ever had.

Core Strengths

This organisational shift does not happen by chance. Over the last few years, we have purposefully invested resources in building the core strengths of our business that will accelerate adaptation - an agile mindset, the strongest, broadest, and most flexible portfolio in the industry, genuine customer and community partnerships, digital and technical infrastructure, and supply chain resilience.


All of these elements played a role in our ability to adapt and win in 2020. A great source of pride for us is that we did not lose a day of production across our plants. We maintained service to our customers, and supported our people and our communities throughout.

The strength and breadth of our portfolio allowed us to act with speed to capture new occasions, particularly in a dynamic market environment. And the pandemic certainly accelerated shifts in consumer behaviour, as our homes became the epicentre of our lives for working, socialising and entertainment.

As many of our on-trade customers were forced to close their doors, there was a need to re-evaluate our channel and marketing strategy.

Across our markets, we upweighted support in grocery, convenience and petro-retail to create new propositions for these growing ‘at-home occasions’, with a particular focus on increasing the relevance of our sparkling soft drinks for screen-time and meal-time.

Coffee Is Critical


Coffee is a critical opportunity for us in the coming decade, but the prospect of launching in 14 markets in the middle of a global pandemic was never going to be easy.

Thanks to the partnerships with our customers and the commitment of our people, we were able to adapt, and we successfully launched our Costa Coffee range in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

With roast and ground coffee, coffee beans, ready-to-drink lattes, and Nespresso and Dolce Gusto compatible pods now within our portfolio, we are well positioned to respond to coffee enthusiasts’ need for a close-to-barista experience in their own homes.

We applied the same thinking and creativity to our adult sparkling beverages, such as Schweppes, combined with the premium spirits product range that we distribute, to drive excitement for the ‘Aperitivo moment’ at home.

To help restaurants and bars to open with impact over the summer, our team in Ireland and Northern Ireland also launched ‘This Coke is on us,’ giving patrons the opportunity to enjoy a free Coke with their meal.


Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Like Never Before’ campaign also featured bars and restaurants in local advertising platforms to help drive footfall to outlets.


Our marketing and commercial teams, in partnership with our customers, developed a more agile route-to-market by investing in food aggregators and delivery channels to capitalise on the take-away occasion and by increasing our online shopper activations with leading retailers.

In Ireland and Northern Ireland, we partnered with Just Eat and Deliveroo, to enhance our offering for the take-away occasion. We also partnered with Tesco to improve the shopper experience instore and online, creating experiences for socialising at home.

Digital also played a key role in our customer support solutions, allowing our field sales teams to focus on more value-adding activities. We revamped our online customer portal, which included the introduction of a digital ordering system and image recognition technology for shelf-scanning.

These innovations have made our customers’ lives easier and ensured that we could get our products from warehouse to shelf effortlessly. Throughout the year, our investment in card payment systems for vending machines also facilitated essential ‘contactless’ solutions for our consumers in Ireland.

Community Support

We also believe that adaptability means recognising and responding to the concerns of others, a belief that has shaped our support for communities for 70 years.

Along with our partners, The Coca-Cola Company, our strong community roots meant we were well-positioned to act with speed and compassion. Across Ireland and Northern Ireland, our in-kind donations have exceeded €1 million since the start of the crisis.

We have donated more than 1 million drinks in total, and together with The Coca-Cola Foundation, we funded 100,000 meals for families in need. We also adapted our supply chain to produce 10,000 hand sanitiser bottles, which were donated for use in care homes across the island.

 This and hundreds of other examples across our markets show how we have adapted through the pandemic, thanks to an investment in our people and their strong belief in our shared purpose.

Building a fast, sustainable recovery, that creates value for all, will be an incredibly demanding but fulfilling undertaking. With adaptability, as well as care for our people and the partners with whom we share our journey, ‘hard-wired’ into our thinking and our culture, I am convinced we are heading in a winning direction.

Coca-Cola HBC will host its first virtual global conference in April for its leadership teams. The theme? #Adapt2Win. 

© 2021 Checkout – your source for the latest Irish retail news. Article by Zoran Bogdanovic. Click sign up to subscribe to Checkout.


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