It may not feel like it in some ways (or in certain places), but it bears repeating: the United States is still in the midst of a pandemic that will continue to wreak havoc on not only the lives of those who fall ill, but America’s way of doing business as usual. That leaves even the biggest businesses with some tough decisions about how to best manage their product portfolio at a time of diminished manufacturing capacity and economic uncertainty.
All that is a very complicated way of saying that people are having a harder time finding certain favorites on store shelves these days, and Coca-Cola is no exception. The pandemic is forcing Coca-Cola to not only accept the inevitably of shipping delays that have cut back on supplies, but also discontinue some of its smaller, more niche offerings in order to ensure the success of its larger brands.
At a time of economic challenge, funneling resources away from smaller brands into bigger ones makes good business sense. According to Business Insider, Coca-Cola’s CEO admitted on a recent earnings call that while smaller brands represent more than half of Coca-Cola’s portfolio, they only generate about 2% of its total revenue. At a time when the company is staring down a 25% drop in its total operating revenue, the business-savvy thing to do is to trim those less profitable products from the portfolio.
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The bad news for fans of obscure Coca-Cola products that aren’t always easy to find in normal times is that the contraction of the business may be permanent. According to CEO James Quincey, the company will “full-on target bigger, more scalable brands” at the expense of smaller efforts. Case in point, the company already announced it would shutter the struggling Odwalla brand, which failed to stick out in a crowded juice market.
While the company hasn’t made any further decisions on which esoteric brands to discontinue (at least publicly), it’s a bit premature to panic about any specialty brands you might not be able to find. Coca-Cola is still dealing with the fallout of bottling issues that affected their supply chain at the beginning of the pandemic, so things should stabilize soon if they haven’t already.
Still, there’s no doubt that the “normal” world we find on the other side of Covid-19 isn’t going to look exactly as it did in early 2020—nor should it. There are obviously bigger things to worry about than whether or not you can find Fresca, but chalk it up as another example of how the world has and will continue to change in ways both big and small as these monotonous pandemic days go by.
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