LAS VEGAS -- The Coca-Cola Co. is taking its first stab at being a coffee vendor to convenience stores by extending the Georgia Coffee brand used primarily in Japan into the U.S. market.
The Georgia Coffee offer, currently in test with a couple of small c-store retailers in the United States, is part of Coca-Cola's growing investment into the foodservice side of the business, Mel Landis, Coca-Cola Refreshments chief customer officer, told CSP Daily News in an exclusive interview during the 2012 NACS Show in Las Vegas.
"If you think about foodservice, anytime you go in and offer a full lineup to your customers, there's an advantage to doing that," Landis said. "We've got a great fountain offering, whether it's core fountain or Freestyle. We've got a terrific frozen offering with brand Coke and Fanta. We're moving into smoothies. The one place we haven't played is brewed. So we think there's an opportunity to look at brewed."
The Georgia Coffee offer, which joins Coca-Cola's fresh-brewed Gold Peak Iced Tea offer, enables retailers to consolidate their beverage ordering with one provider, according to a Coca-Cola press release. Available in select markets, the program uses a retailer's existing coffee brewing equipment or a BUNN ITCB digital brewer that produces 64 fluid ounces of fresh-brewed coffee.
"We're looking for the right accounts," Landis said. "If you're a Speedway or 7-Eleven, you have lots of people that want to offer you coffee service. Some of the other [retailers], one- to 10-store operators, they may not have that. The best they may have is a coffee program that comes through their wholesaler or whatever it is. We think there could be a huge opportunity to offer full service to them: Coming off the Coke truck, one invoice and then how do you go build out a complete beverage program."
As to why brewed coffee and tea make sense to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola today, he added, "[They are] huge businesses for most retailers. We think it gives us an opportunity to offer a full array of beverage options to our customers."
Landis admitted, however, that the new category presents a lot of room for learning, even for the largest beverage company in the world.
"We're going to have to learn, though, because in a lot of places there's not a lot of branding in brewed, and we want to build brands," he said. "We want to be able to do it in a way that's accretive to the brands we build. If it turns into we're just another commodity player in coffee, it'll be less interesting."