When Muhtar Kent -- the 55-year-old protégé of Coke chairman and CEO E. Neville Isdell -- takes over as CEO on Tuesday, he will stick to the current strategic plan emphasizing closer
cooperation with retailers, improved marketing and aggressive expansion into juice and other drinks.
Kent acknowledges that he faces stronger headwinds than were expected when his
appointment was announced, but insists that the beverage industry is better positioned than many other businesses to weather economic difficulties. He says rapid urbanization and blossoming of the
middle class in big emerging nations are juicing demand for on-the-go beverages.
Working closely together, Isdell and Kent found a hit in Coca-Cola Zero, and accelerated international
soft-drink sales by fixing ailing bottlers and troubled markets like Japan, India and the Philippines. But they haven't managed to reverse declines in U.S. sales of carbonated soft drinks. Kent says
Coke can revive carbonated soft drinks in the U.S. but cautions that growth would be "not high."
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