- James Dinkins, president of the company's Minute Maid unit and chief retail sales officer for Coca-Cola North America (CCNA), will take over for Sandy Douglas starting next year, the beverage maker said. To ensure a seamless transition, Douglas will retire from the company on March 1, 2018.
- Dinkins has been in charge of a team that produces, sells, markets and distributes leading brands in juices, natural health beverages, chilled tea and value-added dairy. Dinkins and Douglas joined Coca-Cola in 1988.
- “Our North American business has been thriving and is well positioned for continued success,” James Quincey, Coke's President and CEO, said in a release. “Jim Dinkins is a highly experienced, respected executive who will lead Coca-Cola North America as it continues to evolve and grow.”
Coke's announcement echoes recent C-suite changes at other major food and beverage companies. Hershey, General Mills, Tyson Foods, Kellogg and Mondelez have all appointed new leaders during the past year.
Quincey himself, Coke's CEO and president, has only been in his current position since May. One of his stated directions has been to move Coke toward more innovations and less sugary drinks. “The company needs to be bigger than the core brand,” he said earlier this year.
Like other soda companies, Coke has been trying to reposition itself as consumer tastes evolve away from soda and into beverages perceived as healthier choices. Coke has Honest Tea, Zico, Odwalla, PowerAde, Peace Tea, Vitamin Water, Simply and Dasani in its arsenal of healthy options.
"We can never stand still in this fast-changing marketplace," Dinkins said in a statement. "We have to continue following the consumer by accelerating innovation and expanding our portfolio to give people the beverages they want. We must continue building capabilities to better serve consumers and customers in an increasingly digital world."
The company's most recent earnings report in July was better than expected but still showed a net revenue decline of 16% to $9.7 billion compared to the year-ago period. Volume was steady, although value share was up for sparkling drinks, juice, dairy and plant-based beverages, and ready-to-drink tea and coffee. The next quarterly earnings report is scheduled for Oct. 25.
"While we were a little surprised to see Douglas retiring, particularly given the recent strong performance of his division and the great success he has had throughout his career, we acknowledge that with the North America refranchising process nearly complete, the timing is at least logical," Bonnie Herzog, a senior analyst for Wells Fargo Securities said in an analyst note.
Herzog also said that Dinkins' strong experience with the retail trade will help Coca-Cola North America "remain relevant to all of its U.S. retail partners" even after the refranchising process is complete.
"While we hate to see a strong leader like Douglas leave, we expect Dinkins, who has worked with Douglas for years and is well regarded within KO (Coca-Cola) and by KO's bottling partners, will be more than capable in supporting Quincey's future vision for KO," she said.
Coke has recently reported that its soda revenue — made up of sales from its namesake drink, Sprite and Fanta brands — was up 4% in 2016 due in part to smaller-sized packaging and a successful online ordering program, according to Beverage Daily. The company’s new Coke Zero Sugar has also been well received.
Given Quincey's recent arrival and the disruption across the beverage sector as brands try to keep up with consumers' shifting tastes, it's not surprising that leadership will also be changing, too. There may be a bit more clarity to the situation when Coca-Cola announces its results later this week.