Birmingham firm takes over Coke’s bottling operations in metro Atlanta

A Birmingham firm has taken over Coca-Cola’s bottling operations in metro Atlanta and other Georgia territories as part of Coke’s efforts to “refranchise” its global bottling operations. File photo of a South African bottling plant. Photographer: Henner Frankenfeld/Bloomberg News.
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A Birmingham firm has taken over Coca-Cola’s bottling operations in metro Atlanta and other Georgia territories as part of Coke’s efforts to “refranchise” its global bottling operations. File photo of a South African bottling plant. Photographer: Henner Frankenfeld/Bloomberg News.

A Birmingham bottler has taken over a large chunk of Coca-Cola’s bottling territory in metro Atlanta and north and central Georgia.

The acquisition by privately-held Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED, which boosted its size by about 40 percent, is part of a years-long retooling by Coca-Cola to rev up its dragging sales and profits.

ExploreRead more about Coca-Cola’s re-booting of its bottling operations, plus the Atlanta soft drink giant’s other plans, in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s interview of new Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, on myajc.com.

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James Quincey is the new CEO of Coca-Cola.

Coca-Cola UNITED and Coca-Cola disclosed their deal in late 2015 to transfer ownership of several Georgia territories and two bottling plants. The transaction was completed April 28.

The Atlanta bottling operation dates back to 1900, when it was founded as one of Coca-Cola’s early bottling franchises. Coca-Cola bought the bottler in 1979, and it later became part of Coca-Cola Enterprises, an Atlanta-based publicly-held bottling company.

Coca-Cola UNITED acquired territories in metro Atlanta, Athens, Dublin, Gainesville, Jasper, Lawrenceville, Macon, and Rome, plus two bottling plants in College Park and Marietta.

“The magnitude of this transaction is significant, in that we are increasing the overall size of our company by some 40 percent and adding more than 2,000 associates to the UNITED family,” said John Sherman, president and CEO of Coca-Cola UNITED, in a press release.

The company said it expects to invest about $25 million this year in equipment, facilities and delivery vehicles at its Atlanta operations, plus an additional $100 million “in the next few years” in metro Atlanta.

Coca-Cola UNITED said it has acquired 26 territories and four bottling plants since 2014, adding about 6,000 employees.

In a recent interview with the AJC, Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, said the company’s strongest bottling partners would grow bigger as a result of the Coca-Cola’s efforts to buy, fix up and sell some of the bottling firms, a process it calls “refranchising.”

In its biggest refranchising step, Coca-Cola bought the North American bottling operations of Coca-Cola Enterprises in 2010. It has done the same with hundreds of other bottlers around the globe.

Coca-Cola said it expects to complete that process by the end of this year or early next year.

In a statement about the Coca-Cola UNITED transaction, Douglas said, “Coca-Cola UNITED has been a valued partner of The Coca-Cola Company for more than a century. Coca-Cola UNITED has a strong heritage of serving its customers and consumers, and we are happy to have UNITED become our new partner in Atlanta, Coke’s hometown.”

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