S+B: Doesn’t political and social upheaval create a problem for you?
BOZER: Not really. I was in Pakistan recently. When you read the papers and watch television, you hear about terrorism, earthquakes, floods, and sectarian violence. It’s all negative. But we’ve been there for more than 50 years and we have not experienced any problems in running our business. In fact, our business is thriving there. Over the past four years, we have been growing extremely well. The same holds true for the Arab Spring countries.
In our external environment, we may have many headwinds, but we sell simple moments of pleasure that get consumed a million times a day, and that business continues to be vibrant. It’s a very simple product. Yes, growth slows when you go through major political changes, but things settle down and life goes back to normal. Then you start building from there.
S+B: You have a tremendous variation in the type and sophistication of bottlers you work with, ranging from a giant like SABMiller in South Africa to mom-and-pop-type bottlers in other markets. How do you adapt to their different styles and capabilities?
BOZER: This is the bread and butter of our business: being effective with our partnerships. Our partners may be multi-country bottlers, or they may operate within a single country. They may be public or private. In some countries we work with multiple bottlers. We have all kinds of relationships.
With each one, we first establish a shared vision. We have a one-page road map that portrays a very clear destination for 2020, a clear framework about our strategic pillars and metrics. That road map is actually prepared with our bottlers. It guides all our business planning.
Then it comes to capability. Does the bottler have the capability to execute these plans with us? At the end of the day, we’re trying to create value for the overall system of the Coca-Cola Company and its bottlers, not just ourselves. Otherwise, the system won’t be sustainable in terms of our results.
One of the best examples is our bottler in Turkey, which I used to run. The bottler was built by the Coca-Cola Company and sold to a local shareholder who now owns a majority. It’s a public company with a market value of more than €2.5 billion (US$3.5 billion). It has great alignment with the Coca-Cola Company. It is now 10 times the size of when it started in 1994. This model really works.
S+B: How do you support your partners? Do you train them or lend them money?
BOZER: It depends on the needs of the bottler. The bottlers that operate in multiple countries tend not to need our help. But there might be some emerging area of knowledge — for example, about how to do better category management, in which case we have centers of excellence that the bottlers can access. We have websites where they can download best practices or get our help in building their capabilities. We sometimes support bottlers financially as well, if we are aligned on a fairly aggressive growth plan and want to invest in marketing to build the brands with more intensity. And let’s not forget, we own about 30 percent of our bottlers around the world.
S+B: How do you allow a local bottler and local business unit to differentiate the mix of products they offer?
BOZER: We don’t work in a way whereby every time a business unit wants to launch a product, they have to get my approval. Instead, we share the strategic framework. We have strategy discussions and business plan discussions, and we have other guidelines and rules.