The Coca-Cola Co. has finally merged its German bottlers into one company.

The move, which was expected to complete earlier this year, sees Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG (CCE AG) handle bottling and distribution across the country from 1 September.

The merged entity employs around 12,000 people and annual sales in the region of 3.5bn litres, the company said today (2 August). The 50-plus beverages of Coca-Cola Germany, including Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Powerade and Apollinaris, are bottled on site in 28 bottling plants across the country.

"This is a major milestone for the Coca-Cola business," said Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola's chairman and CEO. "A single German bottler will be able to act far more rapidly and flexibly in the market and create the best selling and distribution system for Germany."

Damian Gammell, chief executive officer of CCE AG, added: "We have achieved a turnaround back to growth in Germany and see a lot of potential for the future. With a single bottler we will support our trade and HORECA customers with a nationwide uniform service and more flexibility in order to leverage our potential even more effectively."

Prior to this merger, CCE AG, which is owned by the Coca-Cola and represents 75% of the German business, and seven other bottlers have handled the bottling and distribution of Coca-Cola's products in the country.