Blog: Chris Brook-CarterThe Daft successor

Chris Brook-Carter | 28 September 2004

It is the lot of any company at the top of its field to be shot at by competitors and critics, but Coca-Cola has taken more hits than most over the last 12 months. Job cuts implemented by recently-departed CEO Douglas Daft have ripped out a chunk of talent and experience from the middle management of the soft drinks giant and left a big hole in morale and confidence – not just within its own ranks but on the stock market as well.

It is the job of newly-installed CEO Neville Isdell to restore that confidence.

The good news for investors and staff is that the straight-talking Irishman has spoken a lot of sense since delivering a profit warning earlier in September. He seems to understand the enormity of the task in front of him and won’t be rushed into any rash changes of strategy just for the sake of it.

Few analysts believe the company is in need of a complete overhaul – they are instead calling for a rethink in the company’s marketing and a return to innovation, particularly outside of the CSD sector.

However, comments in a variety of interviews with Isdell today may raise concerns that the new Coke CEO will be too conservative to make some of the changes that are though to be needed.

Much of the success of rival PepsiCo recently has been built around its expansion into new categories, such as the sport and functional sectors. By comparison, Coke has been criticised for being too slow to adapt to new drinking trends. Comments from Isdell, published in the Financial Times today, seemed to play down the importance of bottled water and other new-age beverages, and will do little to alleviate that perception of Coke. Water he argues leads to palate fatigue and energy drinks don’t deliver the volumes needed.

"I know there is scepticism around this, but the number one priority is recreating the relevance of carbonated soft drinks," Isdell said.

Isdell's FT interview


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