Coca Cola Enterprises is launching a raft of new, healthier drinks this year, Gary Black tells Helena Drakakis

BW: How has CCE helped wholesalers grow sales in the past 12 months?

GB: We work collaboratively with wholesalers by providing detailed plans and insights for each of the environments that they serve: independent, symbol retailers, licensed business and foodservice. There is no one-size-fits-all solution so in convenience, for example, we concentrate on ranging, pack size, merchandising and promotions.

We also invest heavily in our sales team to allow them to support our customers in the most effective way. Those field sales teams work in wholesale and convenience, and drive sales through the wholesale channel.

Lastly, our continued innovation helps to keep our offering fresh through brand extensions and new products.

What is the greatest challenge you face?

It’s the focus on soft drinks in the health debate. We’re really concentrated on offering choice to our customers and we’re doing that by brand extensions and reformulation. We have a range of portion sizes and we’ll put a further £15m investment into research and development by 2020. We’re committed to sustainable growth and we have to adapt and make sure there’s choice in sugar, low-sugar and low-calorie drinks.

The other area that’s growing is adult soft drinks and we’ve launched a range of Schweppes sparkling juice drinks, which are also low-calorie.

What are the opportunities and trends emerging in wholesale for soft drinks?

Consumers are becoming more health conscious. The convenience market continues to grow and will become more relevant, so we need to have the right pack formats. On Coke Zero 500ml, for example, we’ve reduced case sizes from 24 to 12. We also launched a Coke four-pack, which is a much easier product for convenience shoppers to carry home.

There’s also an increase in casual dining and with one in five people choosing not to drink alcohol, the role of soft drinks is growing, particularly premium soft drinks. Schweppes, Appletiser and Coke Icon are central to that range.

What’s been CCE’s greatest achievement over the past year?

Coca Cola Enterprises statisticIt’s what we’re doing in terms of our focus on low and zero-calorie ranges; the investment we’ve put into reformulation; what we are doing in new products, such as Monster Ultra and Capri Sun No Added Sugar; and what we’re about to do with the launch of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. It’s really deliberate and an attempt to change the mix of our portfolio.

What advice would you give wholesalers looking to grow sales in soft drinks?

Get the basics right and ensure you stock the right core range, in the right format, in the right environment. Also, be constantly educating yourself about future trends. Sharing intelligence and data and working collaboratively with the supply base is also crucial in developing the channel.

Digital needs to be a part of the everyday conversation and we have been seeing that shift in wholesale in the past 12 months. It’s why we’ve placed a digital resource within the business team here.

What would you like to see happening in wholesale in the next 12 months?

I’d like to see our low- and no-sugar drinks at the same distribution level as our full-sugar variants. I’d also like to see suppliers, wholesalers and retailers sharing data appropriately, to make sure we are capitalising on  chances to develop the channel. If you look at the growth in convenience and foodservice, these are really positive trends that wholesalers are well placed to take advantage of.

Are you planning any activity that wholesalers should be aware of?

You won’t be able to miss the launch of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. It’s backed by a £10m marketing campaign and it’s our biggest marketing investment in a new product for a decade. Wholesalers will have seen it filtering through in June and the accompanying activity kicks in throughout July.

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Helena Drakakis
Helena Drakakis is a journalist for betterWholesaling. Liaising with some of the leading suppliers and industry experts, she aims to bring wholesalers the best advice, latest news and inspiration.

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