Coke returns to Costco next week

Costco stores stopped ordering new Coca-Cola products in mid-November after a breakdown in negotiations between the two companies.

Beverage Digest, an industry trade publication, first reported the agreement Thursday. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Costco Wholesale Corp., based in Issaquah, Wa., both confirmed the report.

In a conference call with analysts, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said Coke products would start returning next week. He would not provide details on the agreement but said Costco was pleased to have Coke back on store shelves. It had previously put up signs in stores notifying customers that Coke was not being carried.

“I think our sign that we had in stores everywhere basically said it all -- ‘Until we can provide our members with these products at competitive prices and provide our members with value, we’re not prepared to sell it’,” Galanti said in the call. “We’re now going to sell it, so that’s really all I can say at this point.”

Coca-Cola also declined to provide details on the agreement.

“We can confirm that Coca-Cola products will continue to be listed at Costco,” Coca-Cola spokesman Scott Williamson said. “Our program aligns Coca-Cola's brand and package offerings with the needs of Costco's members in a way that is fair and equitable for both Costco and Coca-Cola."

Costco serves both consumers and smaller retailers, who use the store for buying in bulk. The holidays are important for Coca-Cola because it's a staple at many events, parties and family gatherings.

Coca-Cola and Costco both benefit from reaching an agreement, said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. Costco operates 566 warehouses, including 413 in the United States and Puerto Rico.

“It means that going into the year-end holidays both consumers and small retailers will be able to buy Coke products at the major retailer,” Sicher said.

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