Coca-Cola is evolving its business strategy to become a total beverage company by giving people more of the drinks they want – including low and no-sugar options across a wide array of categories – in more packages sold in more locations.

Building a portfolio of “consumer-centric brands” requires shifting focus from what the company wants to sell to what consumers want to buy, according to president and chief operating officer James Quincey, who shared this strategy as part of the company’s vision for future growth at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) conference in Florida, USA.

"We need to start by asking, ‘Where are they going?” James said, stressing the need to stay a step ahead of trends and evolving tastes. “Consumers are looking for products that are more natural. At times with less sugar. Sometimes with more benefits.”

James, who became Coke’s CEO in May, said the company’s multifaceted approach to meet changing tastes and needs includes reducing sugar and calories across many brands; offering new drinks that provide health benefits like hydration and nutrition; expanding the availability of smaller, more convenient packages to help people control sugar more easily; and providing clear, easy-to-find kilojoule information to help people make informed decisions without the guesswork.

Putting the consumer first, James said, starts with rethinking some of the company’s recipes to reduce sugar, and investing to make the next generation of zero-calorie sweeteners. The goal is to give people the low and no-sugar drinks they want without having to give up the great tastes they know and love.

At the same time, The Coca-Cola Company supports the current recommendations of several leading health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), that people should limit their intake of added sugar to no more than 10 percent of their total daily kilojoule/energy intake.

“We’ve begun our journey toward that goal,” James said, citing efforts to make low- and no-sugar drinks more visible and easier to find, and bringing more offerings like organic tea, coconut water, dairy, grab-and-go coffee, juices and purified waters to more people in more places.

In 2017, the company will reduce sugar in more than 500 of its drinks around the globe – adding to the 30 percent of more than 3,900 beverages that already fall into the low or no-sugar category.

Another element of the strategy involves smaller, more convenient packaging. Today, about 40 percent of the company’s sparkling brands are available in these packages of 250 mL or less.

For years, the company has been implementing policies and actions in line with this strategy. In September 2009, Coca-Cola became the first beverage company to commit to front-of-package kilojoule labelling globally on nearly all packaging, and continues to do so. Additionally, the company is diligently following its longstanding policy not to target advertising to children under age 12 anywhere in the world. In New Zealand, Coca-Cola Oceania and its bottling partner CCANZ is committed to complying with the new ASA Children’s and Young Person’s Code that has a 25% audience threshold for children under 14.

All of these proof points, products, programmes, and policies – and the company’s future plans – are grounded in consumer insights.

“We’re listening carefully and working to ensure that consumers are firmly at the centre of our business so we can continue to grow responsibly,” James said. “If we embrace where the consumer is going, our brands will thrive and our system will continue to grow. This is our way forward.”