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Coca-Cola turns to drinks with health benefits

BY Tara Smith

ATLANTA After two years of shrinking U.S. soft drink sales, Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola’s current chief executive officer, is turning to the lab to restore growth with the development of new beverages featuring proven health benefits.

Taking a cue from drugmakers, Coca-Cola is running clinical trials to prove the health benefits of such drinks as Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice and Enviga green tea. The beverages have the potential to be twice as profitable as soda, which still accounts for 80 percent of the company’s sales.

Some have been critical of the science behind the new drinks, including Enviga, which increases metabolism. According to the company, three cans of Enviga can burn 100 calories, as was determined in a clinical study run by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Coca-Cola has dismissed criticism, saying Enviga helps consumers “achieve a healthy lifestyle,” according to Rhona Applebaum, Coke’s chief scientist.

Healthier offerings, overseas expansion and the recent $4.1 billion purchase of Glaceau VitaminWater may help lift the company’s revenue 22 percent by 2010, according to a Bloomberg survey. Coca-Cola’s shares, already up 10 percent in 2007 to date, are forecast to increase 11 percent in the coming year to $59; still down from the stock’s all-time high of $87.94 in 1998.

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Whole Foods finally acquires Wild Oats after prolonged legal challenge

BY Adam Kraemer

AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods Market has acquired Wild Oats Markets for $565 million after the Federal Trade Commission failed to block the transaction on concerns that it would reduce competition, Bloomberg reported.

About 97 percent of investors have tendered their shares in favor of the deal, including 84 percent delivered by the end of the day yesterday, Austin-based Whole Foods said in a statement. Completion of the transaction will occur today, spokeswoman Kate Lowery said yesterday in an interview.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman on Aug. 16 denied the FTC’s bid to block the acquisition, saying it did not not violate any antitrust laws. An appeals court last week upheld the judge’s decision, refusing the government’s request that the decision be put on hold.

Whole Foods agreed to buy Wild Oats in February for $18.50 per share. The FTC sued to block the transaction in June, claiming consumers would be hurt by higher prices and decreased competition.

Whole Foods extended the date of its tender offer to Wild Oats shareholders several times, most recently to yesterday, as the company waited for regulatory and legal permission to complete the offer.

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Campbell appoints VP of corporate strategy

BY Tara Smith

CAMDEN, N.J. Campbell Soup Company, branded convenience food products, has appointed Kirk Elliott as its vice president for corporate strategy, making him responsible for the company’s strategic planning process and advancing strategic initiatives.

Elliott, who has more than 20 years of experience in strategy, business development, and line management, joins Campbell from Elliott Oriental Medicine in San Diego, a company he founded in 2005. Before that, he was at Nabisco International for eight years in business development, planning and line management. His experience with Nabisco culminated to managing director, Nabisco Taiwan, Hong Kong & Asia Export.

Elliott also will oversee the company’s licensing program and will report to Carl Johnson, Campbell’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer.

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