Gary Black, CCEP: “95% of our brands will be exempt from the soft drinks tax”

Martyn Fisher hears from Gary Black, Coca-Cola European Partners’ sales director for wholesale and convenience, about the brand’s ambitious plans for its broad portfolio of products.

How has CCEP helped wholesalers grow sales in the past 12 months?

We have had a big push on Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which is now worth more than £150m and is the fastest-growing cola brand. There has also been significant innovation behind Monster with Hydro and LH44, and this is driving growth. We have been working with wholesalers to capitalise on the B2B digital opportunity, and investing in field sales to support our wholesale and independent customers.

What is the greatest challenge the wholesale industry faces?

The diversity of the outlet universe. The lines are blurring between retail and food-to-go, and our job is to support wholesalers. I must also mention the health agenda, but we see that as an opportunity in that we can increase distribution of low- and zero-sugar products in response to consumer demand.

What trends and opportunities are emerging that wholesalers can take advantage of?

The percentage of orders placed on digital platforms is rising, so there is an opportunity for wholesalers to drive more sales here. We have also invested heavily in responding to the health and wellness trend. In the past year, we have added flavours to the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar range, including Vanilla and Cherry, and launched low-sugar Oasis Sours, a new flavour range. By April next year, when the ‘soft drinks tax’ comes in, 95% of our brands will be exempt from it.

What challenges has CCEP had to overcome in the past year?

We continue to evolve our portfolio and energise our brands so they remain relevant. We reformulated Fanta Orange with a new look and an industry-first twist bottle design. Fanta has grown by 10.6% and is now worth £174m.

There have been no major sporting events this year, so we ran a successful summer promotion on Coca-Cola packs featuring holiday destination names.

What’s been CCEP’s greatest achievement this year?

Glaceau Smartwater is a continued success story, up 50% year-on-year. The still variant is performing well, and we have brought a sparkling variant and a range of sparkling flavours to market, too.

How can wholesalers look to grow soft drinks sales?

Get the basics right. Availability of the core range is key, as is keeping on top of trends, changing outlet types and educating customers about the consumer experience in their outlets. Being aware of and responding to the growth of low- and zero-sugar items is another great way to drive sales.

What would you like to see happening in wholesale?

Suppliers and wholesalers working together and using data for the benefit of both parties. I would also like to see wholesalers adopt more technology and look at the sales opportunities online provides.

What planned activity should wholesalers be aware of?

We have just announced the biggest investment in Schweppes in more than 200 years, including a new premium skittle-shaped bottle, a £6.6m marketing campaign and 1783, a range of naturally-flavoured mixers. Cola-Cola Christmas will also return – more details to follow soon!


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