Joseph V. Tripodi, executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer of The Coca-Cola Company leads the development and leveraging of the company's capabilities, brands and properties to meet the needs of consumers and customers worldwide to drive profitable growth. Tripodi, who once headed the marketing at the former Seagram Spirits and Wine Company, will share his leadership perspective on the macro forces impacting the industry, with his thought-provoking strategies for engaging the market, delivering shared value, and building a network advantage to drive marketing leadership and sustainable growth in a turbulent world. He sits down for an interview as VIBE nears.
VIBE: The soft drink environment continues to change in a variety of ways - what's the biggest challenge for you in terms of food service?
Joe Tripodi: We are putting a lot of energy toward helping our customers grow beverage sales through innovations that make dining out fun. A great example is Coca-Cola Freestyle, which lets consumers choose and mix from over 100 beverage options that span our portfolio – from trademark Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta to flavored waters to low- and no-calorie sparkling and still beverage brands. We’re also expanding Coca-Cola Freestyle by creating both non-alcohol and alcohol specialty beverage recipe options.
VIBE: What are the most significant changes you see in the overall non-alcohol market in the U.S. now?
Tripodi: America’s demographic profile today is incredibly dynamic. We not only have the wealthiest and most active mature market in our history, but we also have the Western world’s only growing youth market. This represents all kinds of opportunities to innovate with new beverage choices, package sizes, sweeteners, and consumer engagement strategies, among other areas. It also provides an opportunity for us to work closely with our food-service customers to create new menu items, food and drink pairings and portion sizes.
VIBE: Coke itself is one of the most uttered orders in restaurants, whether on its own or with spirits - are there other soft drinks you make that you think have as great a potential for bars and restaurants?
Tripodi: We’re currently partnering with Brown-Forman and Bacardi in testing Coca-Cola
Freestyle cocktails with some of our chain restaurant customers today. Coca-Cola Freestyle provides a great way to expand bar offering through new and exciting cocktail and mocktail offerings, from mixers like Dasani Sensations to Seagram’s ginger ales to Minute Maid flavored lemonades. We have recipes, programming, merchandising, and even crew incentives around Coca-Cola Freestyle cocktails.
VIBE: More and more, the Mexican sodas made with cane sugar have gained traction among U.S. soda drinkers and bartenders, not least being the Coke made there - I see it in many stores and bars across the country. Is there any interest in selling a cane sugar Coke on a broader basis in the U.S.?
Tripodi: Don’t get me wrong, we love the wonderful mythology built up around Mexican Coke, but it would be disingenuous for me to say that there’s any real taste profile difference between Mexican cane-sugar Coke and American corn-sugar Coke. Sugar is sugar, and the taste profile is identical.
VIBE: What sorts of new and compelling products are restaurant operators asking your company for, and what can they look forward to from your company in the near term?
Tripodi: We help customers get ahead of what’s on the horizon with flavor innovation, health and wellness awareness, and sustainability efforts. These are all important macro trends that we continue to innovate toward. Additionally, we plan to look at various packaging options for the bar – like our sleek aluminum bottles.
VIBE: What's your favorite drink right now?
Tripodi: Coca-Cola. Always has been. Always will be, my friend!