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Coca-Cola sets up fastest bottling factory

By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu and WANG ZHUOQIONG in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-19 08:19
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Coca-Cola bottles at a Carrefour Hypermarket store in Montreuil, near Paris, France, Feb 5, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Coca-Cola Co set up the world's fastest bottling line recently in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, as the United States-based global beverage giant looks to further expand its manufacturing capacity and investment in China.

The new line at COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd (CBL) can make 120,000 cans every hour, making it the fastest fully automatic production line in the world, according to Ching Lijun, CEO of CBL. The current industry average is between 66,000 cans and 90,000 cans every hour.

The bottling line, which can produce 260,000 metric tons of products annually with a value of 1.3 billion yuan ($183 million), is also the only automatic production line in the global Coca-Cola system that can realize a variety of different packaging specifications at the same time, he said.

The Chengdu line was a recent update in the company's manufacturing capacity and investment in the southwestern province, which includes three new lines set up last year. The company's first plant was built 21 years ago in Chengdu.

The move is also part of CBL's efforts to accelerate work and production resumption since the COVID-19 epidemic, increased investment in equipment renewal and technical transformation, and industrial optimization and upgrading, he said.

"The efforts undoubtedly testify the company's commitment to the Sichuan market and its persistence in providing high-quality drinks for consumers in the country," Ching said.

Coca-Cola China has resumed work and operations of most of its production lines for water, soda and juice in the country.

"As we anticipate a recovery in China, we are planning key actions with bottlers to regain momentum. We will follow the strategy that proved successful before the pandemic, adjusted with greater focus on channels and packages that will have traction as the new normal unfolds," the US firm said on April 21.

In markets around the world, the company subsequently saw significant changes in consumer purchase patterns, notably substantial declines in away-from-home channels, which take up about half of its revenues.

In at-home channels, the company witnessed early pantry loading in certain markets, followed by more normalized demand levels, along with a sharp increase in e-commerce.

Zhu Danpeng, an independent food and beverage analyst, said the focus of Coca-Cola on beverages-marked by its slogan to become a total beverage company-has given it more edge in differentiation from other beverage producers, through its multiple brand and cross category strategy, creating a more diversified consumption scenario.

To further expand its beverage category, Coca-Cola has set up a joint venture with Chinese dairy giant China Mengniu Dairy Co to produce and sell chilled milk in China. Chilled milk is believed to have immense growth potential in China, given its value-added and better-tasting features.

Last month, Coca-Cola's coffee brand Costa Coffee said it will launch a line of ready-to-drink coffee products in China by the end of last month to further tap the country's rising ready-to-drink market.

Costa Coffee has set up more than 500 stores in China since it entered the market in 2006.

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