The Coca-Cola Company only produces a syrup concentrate, which it sells to bottlers throughout the world, who hold Coca-Cola franchises for one or more geographical areas. The bottlers produce the final drink by mixing the syrup with filtered water and sweeteners, and then carbonate it before putting it in cans and bottles, which the bottlers then sell and distribute to retail stores, vending machines, restaurants and food service distributors
The Company operates a worldwide franchise system supplying syrups and concentrates to over 1,200 bottling operations, (there are more than 350 in the US alone!) which thus involves local companies and suppliers in the 200 countries in which Coca-Cola is sold.
The bottling companies distribute the world’s favourite brand using the most sophisticated technology and distribution networks available. The Company supports its international bottler network with sophisticated marketing programmes seeking to guarantee the Company’s brands are available where anyone is seeking refreshment. Coca-Cola’s bottling system is the largest and most widespread production and distribution network in the world.
The Coca-Cola Company isn’t one giant company; it’s a system of small companies. This pattern helps it scale new products, new communications, new equipment, etc. Designing for this pattern is critical; when it wants to scale fast, it can.
Coke’s been in Africa since 1928, but most of the time they couldn’t reach the distant markets, because they had a system that was a lot like in the developed world, which was a large truck rolling down the street. And in Africa, the remote places, it’s hard to find a good road. But Coke noticed something — they noticed that local people were taking the product, buying it in bulk and then reselling it in these hard-to-reach places. And so they took a bit of time to learn about that. And they decided in 1990 that they wanted to start training the local entrepreneurs, giving them small loans. They set them up as what they called micro-distribution centers, and those local entrepreneurs then hire sales people, who go out with bicycles and pushcarts and wheelbarrows to sell the product. There are now some 3,000 of these centers employing about 15,000 people in Africa. In Tanzania and Uganda, they represent 90 percent of Coke’s sales.