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Coke CEO Vows To Strengthen Company

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 9:04am
Vinnee Tong, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Coca-Cola Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said Friday that the world's biggest beverage company would emerge from the global financial crisis stronger than it went in.

"In a funny way, as I've said, there are many opportunities: We will not waste this crisis," he told financial analysts at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference. "We feel we will emerge out of this stronger."

Kent also said advertising dollars are more powerful in this environment, and the company planned to keep spending to promote its brands.

"The airwaves are cleaner, the cost of advertising is much lower," Kent said. "You get much better bang for your buck, in terms of how you reach consumers."

In addition to trademark Coke, the company sells Sprite, Fanta, VitaminWater, Dasani bottled water and Minute Maid orange juice.

Atlanta-based Coke launched a new global marketing campaign last month that is running simultaneously with a push by PepsiCo Inc., the second biggest beverage maker. Industry watchers say the ad blitzes are designed to lure American consumers back to soft drinks, a cheap indulgence that appeals to shoppers who want to spend less.

"We deliver simple moments of pleasure," Kent said.

Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y., both have said their focus will be to turn around the market for soda in North America.

Soft drink sales have been in decline for years as consumers grew concerned about the high-fructose corn syrup that sweetened the drinks. The drinks makers hope innovations like stevia-based sweetener will help stem falling sales and eventually bring revenue growth back in line with population growth.

Both have also introduced 16-ounce drink sizes to be sold for 99 cents.

Shares of Coke fell 35 cents to $42.95 in midday trading while PepsiCo shares fell 45 cents to $51.75.

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