Coca-Cola CEO: we have the flexibility to recognise when experiments have failed

Coca-Cola's nimble attitude to innovation is helping it stay ahead, chief executive James Quincey said.

Coca-Cola CEO: we have the flexibility to recognise when experiments have failed

Quincey was speaking on an analysts’ call after the soft drinks giant announced its third-quarter results.

The company’s organic sales were up 4% in the three months to 29 September; in EMEA, they grew 5%, in North America, 2% and in Asia-Pacific, 3%.

Revenues for the quarter were $9.1bn (£6.9bn), which was down 15% year-on-year as a result of the company refranchising its bottling operations, but beat analysts’ expectations.

Quincey said the company’s strategy of becoming a "total beverage company" depended on being able to implement innovations quickly and change track as results demanded.

"Not everything is going to work, which is why an agile approach to testing is essential," he said. He gave an example of Costa Rica, where Fanta was reformulated to be sweetened entirely with fruit juice – after the new version was not universally popular, the company reintroduced the original.

"Our model needs to be flexible, so if a brand introduction isn't successful, we can adapt quickly," Quincey said. "We have empowered our local brand leaders to make these decisions."

Diversifying the company’s offering meant "identifying and incubating high growth brands" like Topo Chico mineral water in the US – but added: "While this is critical it’s only part of the equation.

"That’s why we increased our media investments in our sparkling brands and will continue to innovate in these core brands as well."

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which made its debuted in the UK last year, was continuing to enjoy double-digit sales growth, he said – while in the US, where it was introduced this summer, it had led to a "meaningful acceleration in Coke Zero’s trends".

This year’s global relaunch of Fanta, meanwhile – involving a new recipe with less sugar, new packaging design and bespoke "twisted" bottles – had helped the brand return to volume growth, he added.