September 22, 2023

Profile of a public company in Florida

Cott Corp. is King of Pop

Private label beverage company Cott Corp is back from the brink. Now what?

Lilly Rockwell | 7/1/2012
Cott beverage co.
[Photo: Dan Gaye]

Making sodas for big chains like Walmart and Publix may not be the sexiest business in the world, but Cott Corp. has gotten very good at it.

By the turn of the century, Cott, which is headquartered in Tampa, had become the largest producer in the nation of private-label soft drinks — the beverages that supermarkets offer under their own labels at big discounts to name brands such as Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper and Pepsi.

Cott Corp.

Founded: 1955 (a predecessor company was founded in 1923)

Headquarters: Tampa (operational); Canada (corporate)

Products: Private-label sodas such as Sam’s Cola and Dr. Thunder. It also owns the rights to the RC Cola brand for sales outside North America.

Employees: 3,945, (300 to 400 in Florida)

Facilities: 32 manufacturing and juice processing facilities. A main research and development facility and concentrate plant is in Columbus, Ga.

2011 Revenue: $2.3 billion, with Walmart accounting for 32% of sales

2011 Profit: $37.6 million

Customers: The biggest supermarkets and mass merchandisers in the U.S., Mexico, United Kingdom and Canada. It also sells beverage concentrate in 50 countries.

Market share: 3.7% of overall beverage industry; 5.2% of carbonated sodas
Source: Beverage Digest, Cott Corp.

At Walmart, Cott supplies beverages under multiple names, including Sam’s Cola and Dr. Thunder for as little as 84 cents for a two-liter bottle, about 35% less than name brands. The company’s name is nowhere to be found on the labels.

Cott had enjoyed double-digit revenue growth between 2000 and 2004, but its stock price began declining under CEO John Sheppard, a former Coca-Cola executive who left after two years at the helm. In 2006, the company replaced him with another Coca-Cola veteran, Brent Willis, who has a background in marketing and lots of enthusiasm.

Willis’ arrival — and his new strategy — jolted Cott, a media-shy firm known for a steady, quiet style long on results and short on flash. While it’s the largest private-label drink maker, Cott is tiny compared to giants Pepsi and Coke. Without the brand-name loyalty those firms enjoy, it essentially must compete on price — Cott’s margins suffer if the giants engage in a price war or if raw materials prices for sweeteners, bottles or cans increase.

Willis saw a problem in Cott’s heavy reliance on carbonated soft drinks. Growth in soft drink consumption was declining, and commodity costs were increasing, squeezing Cott’s profits. Willis believed Cott needed to expand into beverages with bigger margins, including teas, juices and energy drinks.

“You have to ask yourself: ‘Where is the money and where is the growth?’ ” says Willis. “You want to have access to more profitable categories.”

Florida Business News

Florida News Releases

Florida Trend Video Pick

Gator with missing jaw finds home in Florida park
Gator with missing jaw finds home in Florida park

A Florida reptile park has taken in an alligator that lost its nose and upper jaw to a fight or boat propeller. Gatorland Orlando said over the weekend that the injured alligator came from a lake in nearby Sanford, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of Orlando. “She had basically no chance of surviving in the wild with such a severe injury,” the park said in a social media post.

Video Picks | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Why do you believe Florida's teacher shortage is at an all time high?

  • New legislative restrictions
  • Parent/guardian involvement
  • Student disciplinary issues
  • Compensation
  • Curriculum

See Results

Florida Trend Media Company
490 1st Ave S
St Petersburg, FL 33701

© Copyright 2023 Trend Magazines Inc. All rights reserved.