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Coke’s annual meeting in Atlanta fits urban strategy

Bringing the annual Coca-Cola Co. shareholders meeting back to Atlanta (after more than a decade) is symbiotic of the company’s vision for growth.

Let me explain. Most years, Coca-Cola holds its annual meeting in Wilmington, Delaware where about 250 to 300 people usually attend.

The meeting held Wednesday in Atlanta (actually Gwinnett Center) attracted 550, partly because this is Coca-Cola’s hometown with the largest concentration of employees and shareowners.

But metro Atlanta also is a much larger urban area than Wilmington.

So how does that fit into Coca-Cola’s strategy?

Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s CEO who at the meeting also became chairman, explained that Coca-Cola’s growth is directly tied to global urbanization. (Neville Isdell retired as chairman at the meeting saying this was his third attempt at retirement).

“People are moving in record numbers from rural to urban areas,” Kent said. “As of last year, for the first time in the history of our planet, more people live in cities than in rural areas.”

That has led to the rapid growth of the middle class around the world.

Now here’s the connection to Coca-Cola.

Kent said that 70 percent of the drinks in the developed world are “ready-to-drink” beverages. But in lesser developed societies, only 30 percent of the beverages consumed fit the “ready-to-drink” variety.

So as the world becomes more urban, Coca-Cola’s opportunity to sell more its products only grows.

“Really, we are just getting started,” Kent said.

Globally, consumption of ready-to-drink beverages is 85 drinks a year per person, which is an average of less than two drinks a week. No wonder Kent sees the upside for growth.

Perhaps Coca-Cola can make Atlanta its regular site for its annual meetings. That would fit right in with its urban strategic vision.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. mariasaporta April 24, 2009 7:24 am

    I sent my buddy, Ben Deutsch, a Coca-Cola spokesman, an email asking him when the company last held its annual shareholders meeting in Atlanta. It’s been longer than I had thought. The annual meeting was last here in 1992. And before that, it was 1986. Let’s hope Coca-Cola returns here more frequently than another 17 years.Report


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