Perspectives

Innovation Disruption in the Beverage Business? You Bet, Says Coke VP


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When we hear the words “innovation” and “entrepreneurship” we don’t always think of well-established brands like Coca-Cola. However, Coke is one of the world’s leaders in developing new beverages and cutting-edge technologies to deliver them to customers.
Chris Hellman, global vice president and general manager of the Coca-Cola Freestyle Division, is the embodiment of innovation within the highly competitive beverage industry.
Hellmann says it is Coke’s goal to be a “total beverage company” that can bring innovations, new products, and new ideas to market quickly. He leads a multidisciplinary team of marketers, engineers, and computer experts to redesign how Coke products presented to consumers.
The Freestyle concept “reinvented the beverage fountain experience” using “micro-dosing” technology to deliver almost 200 different drink options with 117 being either low calorie or no calorie beverages, says Coca-Cola.
It is a dispenser that emphasizes choice and customization for each consumer. It started as a “disruptive technology”, according to Hellmann. But, it now is a multi-billion dollar business, he says. Some 50,000 Freestyle Units dispense nearly 14 million drinks per day in restaurants, convenience stores, movie theaters and other locations.
Coke cites that beverage servings are up 8% in Freestyle locations and calories-per-serving are down nearly 10%. Use of the machines is constantly monitored to provide an even greater consumer experience, Hellman states.
Hellmann thinks that the possibilities for innovation within Coca-Cola are unlimited. For example, experimental products are being developed to reduce packaging waste and reduce the carbon footprint of traditional soft drink syrup packaging and delivery.
In the age of fast-paced technology, even traditional brands and products are undergoing disruption through innovation and such companies are encouraging teams of employees to be entrepreneurs.