Charted: A snapshot of Coca-Cola as its CEO steps down

A reshuffling in soda.
A reshuffling in soda.
Image: Reuters/Will Burgess
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The world’s largest soda company today (Dec. 9) announced it would reshuffle its top leadership, calling upon CEO Muhtar Kent to make way for James Quincey, who has been serving as COO.

Quincy is set to take the reins May 1, 2017. Kent will remain with the company as chairman, a role he currently also serves.

Kent was named CEO in 2005, a full 27 years after he began working for the company.

Analysts say that though a move was expected. Kent vacates Coca-Cola’s top spot as the company’s sales growth has continued to shrink across its entire US portfolio.

That trend has been particularly acute for its namesake soda. The last decade has proven difficult for both Coke and Pepsi brands, as US consumers continue to abandon their once-popular diet soda drinks.

Meanwhile, the overall climate around sugary drinks has been pernicious for the two brands. In 2016, for example, voters in several major US cities voted in favor of instituting soda taxes. And bottled water has finally caught up with soda in the long consumer preference race.

The trend away from sugary drinks has spurred Coca-Cola to invest more heavily in juices, teas, and water, an attempt to broaden its portfolio to include options marketed as “healthy.” Kent oversaw one of Coca-Cola’s biggest financial investments into becoming “healthier” in 2008, when the company purchased a 40% stake of the Honest Tea Company brand at $43 million. It bought the remaining stake in 2011.

“The challenge for the next leadership team at the company will be ensuring continued sales growth in this new consumer environment,” says Howard Telford, a beverages analyst at Euromonitor.

Still, soda companies like Coca-Cola are still able to push their namesake products globally. Countries outside the US remain a much more hospitable environment for selling soda.

In a statement, Kent said he felt Quincey was a good choice to replace him.

“We are certain that James Quincey is prepared for these new responsibilities and is the absolute right choice to lead our company and system into the future,” Kent said.