Coca-Cola Beverages Florida: ‘It's about the brand'
Initially, Taylor says, his biggest challenges were in getting the company’s administrative infrastructure — IT, human resources, etc. — up to speed. He’s filled his new company’s senior management ranks with experienced former Coca-Cola executives and associates he worked with in other business ventures.
He’s also sought to reintroduce a family- owned company feel among his firm’s employees, regularly visiting the warehouse and field workers at the company’s sales and distribution centers. “We want people to take ownership” in the company’s success, says Dale Yahrmatter, the company’s vice president of operations, pointing to forklifts now inscribed with employees’ names.
While Coke bottlers make money servicing big national clients, their highest margins come by driving sales at smaller, Main Street-type businesses. In his central Florida territory, Taylor has beefed up his company’s profile through various community events and initiatives — speaking engagements, donations and sponsorships for groups like Boys and Girls Clubs and events like coastal cleanup efforts. He’ll bring that approach throughout the state, he says, to emphasize Coca-Cola’s connection to local communities.
Yahrmatter cites one initiative undertaken by the company that was problematic under Coca-Cola Enterprises’ corporate management. “We had a float in the Lakeland Christmas parade; we couldn’t do that before,” he says.
As he works to build the relationships that enhance Coke’s visibility, Taylor also faces a challenge in supplying exactly the right products in Florida’s diverse local communities. It’s possible to identify some general preferences among different ethnic groups — Hispanics tend to prefer sweeter carbonated beverages, for example; millennials tend to like flavored teas and waters, he says. But demographics vary from one community to the next. Even in just one convenience store, the clientele may vary so much from the morning to the afternoon, Taylor says, that knowing exactly how to stock the cooler by the cash register isn’t easy.
Ultimately, Taylor says, his success depends on making sure Coca-Cola Beverages Florida sells and delivers the right Coke products in the right places. “It’s about the brand. Coke communicates quality. Our job is to figure out what the local consumer wants and to deliver that on a consistent basis to them.”
Coca-Cola Beverages Florida joins an elite group of big independent bottler/distributors with franchise territories across the U. S. Among the largest:
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, a privately held firm, controls distribution in seven southeastern states from its headquarters in Birmingham. In Florida, United controls distribution of Coke products from the Tallahassee region west through most of Florida’s Panhandle.
Swire Coca-Cola, part of a Hong Kong firm, sells and distributes Coke products in 13 western states, including Washington, Nebraska, California and Arizona.
Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, a publicly traded company based in Charlotte, N.C., is the largest independent Coke bottler in the U.S. The firm, which had $1.74 billion in revenue in 2015, controls territory in North and South Carolina and 12 other states, primarily in the southeast but ranging into Indiana and Pennsylvania. Like United, its history as a Coke bottler goes back to 1902. In Florida, Coca- Cola Consolidated controls a small area around Panama City.