The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) is one of the most recognizable brands globally and is best known for its namesake carbonated cola beverage. The first glass of Coca-Cola was served at Jacobs’ Pharmacy in downtown Atlanta on May 8, 1886. The cola was the creation of a pharmacist named Dr. John Pemberton, whose partner, Frank M. Robinson, was given credit for naming the beverage and designing the distinct stylized script that is still used today.
Sales of Coca-Cola averaged just nine servings per day in Atlanta during that first year, but by 2020, the company sold 1.9 billion beverage servings per day globally bearing its trademark. The company posted $7.7 billion in net income on $33.0 billion of revenue during 2020. It had a market capitalization of $233.4 billion as of July 9, 2021.
For decades, Coca-Cola has faced intense competition from PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and its rival cola beverage. But while PepsiCo has expanded into the snack food market, Coca-Cola has stuck to beverages. That hasn’t stopped Coca-Cola from diversifying away from its traditional drink. The company has made a number of acquisitions to expand into all corners of the beverage market, especially as soda consumption has declined in recent decades. Bottled water and energy drinks have been key drivers of new growth, along with products for the expanding ranks of health-conscious consumers.
There is one exception to Coca-Cola’s strictly beverage-focused strategy: The company acquired Columbia Pictures in 1982 for $750 million but later sold it to Sony Corp. for $3.4 billion, a more than 350% markup.
Below, we look at five of Coca-Cola’s most important acquisitions in more detail.
- Type of business: Fruit beverages
- Acquisition price: Stock swap worth $59 million
- Acquisition date: Dec. 30, 1960
Minute Maid orange juice was first produced by Vacuum Foods Corp. in 1946. It was the first frozen concentrated orange juice product in the United States. In 1949, Vacuum Foods renamed itself Minute Maid Corp. Just over a decade later, Coca-Cola acquired the company in 1960 in a stock deal worth $59 million.
Prior to the deal, Coca-Cola had begun to manufacture a soft drink syrup and concentrate under the trademark “Fanta,” to be used for making fruit-flavored sodas. The acquisition thus eliminated any potential rivalry with Minute Maid. The deal helped Coca-Cola branch out beyond its traditional cola, and Minute Maid now boasts a suite of more than 100 flavors and varieties of juices, lemonades, and punches.
- Type of business: U.K.-based coffeehouse chain
- Acquisition price: $5.1 billion
- Acquisition date: Aug. 31, 2018
The origins of Costa Coffee can be traced back to 1971, when the very first cup of Costa coffee was poured in London. Seven years later, brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa opened their first coffee shop on London’s Vauxhall Bridge Road. After expanding outside the United Kingdom into major cities like Dubai in 1999 and Moscow in 2008, the coffeehouse chain was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2018.
At the time of the acquisition, Costa had nearly 4,000 retail outlets with highly trained baristas, a coffee vending operation, for-home coffee formats, and a state-of-the-art roastery. The acquisition added a leading brand to Coca-Cola’s portfolio with two key attributes: Costa specialized in hot beverages and already had an established global presence.
Energy Brands Inc. (Glacéau)
- Type of business: Bottled and enhanced water
- Acquisition price: $4.1 billion
- Acquisition date: May 25, 2007
Energy Brands, also known as Glacéau, was founded in 1996 by J. Darius Bikoff. That idea spawned the company, which focused on producing nutrient-based drinks without the excess sugar and artificial ingredients that are typical of the water-alternative market.
In May 2007, Coca-Cola acquired Energy Brands for $4.1 billion. The company boasts a line of popular brands, including smartwater, fruitwater, and vitaminwater. The acquisition strengthened Coca-Cola’s expansion into lifestyle beverages, including brands catering to more health-conscious consumers.
Monster Beverage Corp. (MNST) (minority interest)
- Type of business: Energy drinks
- Acquisition price: Coca-Cola acquires 16.7% stake by making net cash payment of $2.15 billion, among other steps
- Acquisition data: June 12, 2015
Monster Beverage Corp. traces its origins to a juice company started by Hubert Hansen and his sons in the 1930s. The company started out as Hansen’s Juices Inc., selling fresh non-pasteurized juices in Los Angeles. In 2012, what had become Hansen Natural Corp. was renamed Monster Beverage Corp.
In 2015, Monster signed a long-term strategic partnership deal with Coca-Cola, which gave Coca-Cola a 16.7% minority stake in the company. As part of the deal, Coca-Cola transferred ownership of its worldwide energy drinks business to Monster, and Monster transferred its non-energy drinks business to Coca-Cola.
Monster is the maker of a line of popular energy drinks, with the most well-known being Monster Energy. While the partnership helped Coca-Cola establish its presence in the global energy drink market, the company branched out to offer an energy drink of its own: Coca-Cola Energy. It marked the first non-soda beverage ever produced under the Coca-Cola brand label.
In May 2021, Coca-Cola said it will discontinue by year-end its U.S. and Canada sales of Coca-Cola Energy, which it introduced in early 2020 to expand sales in the energy drink market. The product competed directly with products produced by Monster, but it failed to gain significant market share. Coca-Cola Energy will still be sold in Europe.
- Type of business: Bottled organic tea
- Acquisition price: $43 million for initial 40% stake; transaction price not disclosed for remaining 60% stake
- Acquisition dates: Feb. 5, 2008 (initial 40% stake); March 1, 2011 (remaining stake)
Honest Tea was founded in 1998 by Seth Goldman and his then-Yale School of Management professor, Barry Nalebuff. Part of the mission, as laid out in the original business plan, was to offer customers a bottled tea that tastes just like tea.
Honest Tea grew to $38 million in sales by 2008, when Coca-Cola acquired a 40% stake in the organic bottled tea company for $43 million. Coca-Cola acquired the remaining 60% stake in 2011.
In addition to bottled tea, Honest Tea offers an array of lemonades and organic juice drinks. The company also has an Honest Kids line of juice beverages. The acquisition is another example of how Coca-Cola has expanded its line of non-soda beverage options to appeal to the health food market.
Coca-Cola Diversity & Inclusiveness Transparency
As part of our effort to improve the awareness of the importance of diversity in companies, we have highlighted the transparency of Coca-Cola’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and social responsibility. The chart below illustrates how Coca-Cola reports the diversity of its management and workforce. This shows if Coca-Cola discloses data about the diversity of its board of directors, C-Suite, general management, and employees overall across a variety of markers. We have indicated that transparency with a ✔.
|Coca-Cola Diversity & Inclusiveness Reporting|
|Race||Gender||Ability||Veteran Status||Sexual Orientation|
|Board of Directors|
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Coca-Cola. “Annual Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020,” Page 2.
Coca-Cola. “Annual Report for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020,” Page 64.
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KPMG via Internet Archive. “Rise of the Health Conscious Consumer Continue to Redefine Consumer Markets.”
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Google Play Books. “Staff Report to the Federal Trade Commission: Economic Inquiry Into Food Marketing,” Page 124.
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Honest Tea. “Business Plan for 1999,” Page 3.
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Honest Tea. “Our Product Family.”