Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Coke’s secret lab looking for newest drinks

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cokeCheck out Coke’s scientists concocting the beverage maker’s next blockbuster.

With carbonated drinks sales fizzling, companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have for years been exerting great efforts to find the next home run drink.  Bottled waters, energy drinks and sports drinks are now commonplace, with new variations popping up that claim to boost relaxation, health, beauty, anti-aging, muscle repair, mood and immunity.

At its Atlanta headquarters, Coke has a team of scientists feverishly working away like the Muppet Show’s  Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, toying with new beverage formulations. And they have to be creative. Look how weird the world of drinks has gotten: some of the unusual products out on the market now include chunky aloe vera drinks and spicy drinks like those made by Prometheus Springs, with flavors like Lychee Wasabi and Pomegranate Black Pepper.

Coke is not taking any chances. It’s Venturing and Emerging Brands unit functions as a sort of in-house VC firm and invests in independent brands like Honest Tea and Zico coconut water, and developing its own drinks, like a new carbonated dairy drink called Vio.

Check Out Line: Have a Coke and a confused looking grin

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Check out the confused American consumer. COCACOLAENTERPRISES/

Coca-Cola Co actually saw sales volume rise in North America in the second quarter, a rare feat.

Now imagine what would happen if U.S. consumers could actually figure out if they can afford to keep spending the money on a soda, what with high unemployment and the jittery stock market.

Check Out Line: Appetite grows for food deals

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thistractorCheck out what we’re hearing from top executives attending our Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago this week.

Kantar Retail Americas Chief Executive Ken Harris, a top industry consultant, said he sees a healthy appetite for strategic acquisitions in the food and grocery space this year as improving credit markets and a recovering U.S. economy tempt buyers.

Olympic Gold for Coke, McDonald’s and Visa

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rings1When is Olympic sponsorship money well spent? A Performance Research poll shows it may depend on how the funds are used.

Coke, McDonald’s and Visa dominate consumer awareness when it comes to the Olympics, according to a study by the Rhode Island-based research firm that evaluates the sponsorship industry.

Check Out Line: Coke’s actions speak louder than its words

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coke1Check out Coke’s about face on its relationships with one of its bottlers.

Coke plans to buy the North American operations of its largest bottler, Coca Cola Enterprises, in a substantially cashless deal that would let it cut costs and be more flexible in its distribution.

The announcement of the deal comes just as Coke rival PepsiCo is about to close its own $7.8 billion purchase of its largest bottlers, Pepsi Bottling Group and PepsiAmericas. It also reverses Coke’s previous stance, spelled out in repeated comments over the past several months, that its current relationship with its bottlers was just fine and it didn’t need to copy Pepsi.

Check Out Line: Have a Coke and an in-line quarterly profit

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coke1Check out Coke’s quarterly profit.

Coca-Cola reported a fourth-quarter profit that matched Wall Street’s expectations as strong volume in China, India and Brazil offset a decline in North America. Lower costs and market share gains in both the carbonated and noncarbonated segments helped too.

Coke’s growth in the developing markets — fourth-quarter volume rose 7 percent in Latin America and 11 percent in the Pacific region — helped offset a 1 percent volume decline in the closely watched North American market. Volume was up 1 percent in Europe.

Coca-Cola’s tale of four cities

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …

muhtar-kentWhen trying to determine how and when consumers will recover from the downturn, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent sees the world broken into four quadrants.  It’s “A Tale of Four Cities,” he said.

Think of four different quadrants, Kent said on a call on Tuesday after the company reported second-quarter results.

Cola truce? Coke and Pepsi trade niceties on Twitter

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Cola rivals Coke and Pepsi gave their long-standing feud a rest last week after a user-provoked experiment on Twitter prompted the two pop makers to trade friendly greetings on the popular social networking service.

Coca-Cola responded first to a clever user’s message suggesting that the two make nice on Twitter, offering “A gracious (yet competitive) hello” to Pepsi. In return, Pepsi extended a Twitter-style olive branch of sorts to its competitor: “Can rivals and tweeps coexist? We’re willing to find out. :) Tweeps, for those unversed in the lingo, is a cutesy term for Twitter users.

Check Out Line: Signs of stability at Coach

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coach1Check out signs of stabilizing demand at U.S. handbag and accessories maker Coach.

The leather goods company posted a lower quarterly profit, but said business was stabilizing at its North American stores at pre-December levels. The company has refrained from deep profit-sapping discounts in a strategy that has preserved the status of its brand but hurt sales.

Not your father’s soda machine

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cokeCoca-Cola is trying out high-tech, flat-screen vending machines.

The new machines, which feature a touch screen, will be tested this spring in select Simon malls in the southeastern U.S. 

Coca-Cola and Simon will also test several interactive promotions with the machines, which will accept Simon gift cards.

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