This week Coca-Cola began telling other employees in Atlanta that their jobs are being eliminated as part of the 500 local job cuts, though they will be allowed to apply for open positions.
A Coca-Cola spokesperson declined to disclose how many of the reductions are voluntary or involuntary, or what kinds of job will be most affected.
Over the summer, the company said it had offered voluntary separation packages to 4,000 people in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico — nearly 40% of its workforce in those areas. It declined to say how many received the offers in Georgia or how many accepted.
Coca-Cola had about 4,800 employees in metro Atlanta at the end of 2019. Most have worked remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, turning the company’s global headquarters on North Avenue into a virtual ghost town.
Coca-Cola has said it was making the reductions as part of a major reorganization aimed at growing the business, but the pandemic accelerated its moves. The company normally derives about half its sales from public venues such as restaurants, movie theaters and sports stadiums, many of which have been shuttered or seen a big drop in traffic.
When the reorganization was announced in August, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Quincey said the company “must operate differently to emerge stronger.”
More recently Coca-Cola reported improvements, though its revenues and operating income were still lower than in comparable periods last year.
Many Georgia companies have been hammered by the pandemic, including Delta Air Lines, which has seen travel demand plunge. But others have done far better, including Sandy Springs-based UPS, which benefited from a dramatic increase in deliveries tied to e-commerce.
The latest job cuts are big for Coca-Cola, but not the largest it’s made. In 2000, the company eliminated about 5,200 jobs, more than a third of them in metro Atlanta. In 2003, it dropped 1,000, half locally. There were cuts in other years, including about 1,800 in 2015, nearly a third in Atlanta. And another 1,200 were eliminated over 2017 and 2018, many of them local.
The company responded to flattened interest in sodas by selling drinks in smaller packages and launching new products. It has delved into areas like milk, coffee and even alcohol, in addition to its juice, sports drink and bottled water offerings, even as it tries to more quickly shed drinks that struggle.
In October, Coca-Cola announced it was dropping half its drink brands, most of them sold outside the United States. They accounted for only about 1% of the company’s profits. Among those being dropped: Tab, the company’s original diet soft drink.