The Coca-Cola Co has started this year with a return to growth, as first-quarter sales came in an impressive 6% up on the corresponding period a year ago.

Two months after posting a 9% top-line decline from 2020, the group today confirmed its emergence from the worst of the pandemic era. More impressively, the three months to the end of March also delivered an improvement on the first quarter of 2019, when sales totalled US$8.69bn versus the latest quarter’s $9.02bn.

Driving the performance was Coca-Cola’s Asia-Pacific operations, which increased sales by 18%. While North America also posted in the plus-column – sales rising 4% – the company’s Europe, Middle East & Africa reporting region continued to struggle, declining by 7%.

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While sales in value terms increased, volumes in unit-case terms were flat, a performance that gives PepsiCo the bragging rights, having seen its Q1 beverage volumes climb 2% last week. Coca-Cola noted, however, that its group volumes improved with each month of the quarter.

Turning to brands, and the Coke trademark delivered “solid growth”, as did the wider CSD portfolio along with nutrition, juice, dairy and plant-based offerings. “Hydration”, meaning packaged water, suffered in the three months, however.

In today’s results announcement, Coca-Cola talked of a “lift-and-shift” strategy of taking brands to new markets following success elsewhere. Examples cited included Coca-Cola with Coffee and Coca-Cola with Coffee Zero Sugar, both of which hit the US in the quarter “after initial success in international markets”.

CEO James Quincey

“We remain focused on emerging stronger and executing against our growth accelerators during the recovery phase. We are pleased with the progress we are making. We are encouraged by improvements in our business, especially in markets where vaccine availability is increasing and economies are opening up, and we remain confident in our full-year guidance.”

Also in today’s results, the company confirmed the intention to publicly list its Coca-Cola Beverages Africa bottling unit, with part of its ownership going towards an IPO. “This demonstrates a commitment by the company for CCBA to remain Africa-focused and South Africa-headquartered,” Coca-Cola said.

To view The Coca-Cola Co’s official first-quarter results announcement, click here.

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