Coke CEO urges food industry to invest in poor regions
Dubai, August 18, 2008
The food and beverage industry must invest in poor communities to sustain the world’s food supply as it moves towards an increasingly uncertain future, said Coca Cola's newly-appointed global CEO.
Muhtar Kent was delivering the keynote address at the recent 'CIES Food Business Summit' in Germany, which focused on sustainability as one of its core concerns.
A Turkish national, Kent had assumed the CEO position on July 1. "The growth and sustainability of the global food industry are essential to feeding the world, providing jobs and livelihoods, and protecting our natural resources and environments,” he noted.
Citing UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon’s estimate that it will take approximately $15-20 billion a year in new investments and innovations in agriculture and food technologies to offset the current food crisis, Kent urged industry leaders to channel the investment into infrastructure to “serve the most under-served consumers in the most underprivileged regions of the world — those hundreds of millions of people today who will ascend to the middle class in the coming decade.”
He used the example of Coca-Cola’s manual distribution center network in Africa, which allows independent entrepreneurs to set up distribution centers on behalf of the company.
Nearly 2,300 of the distribution centers have been set up by small business owners — many of them women — across Africa, with the goal of adding 1,300 to 2,000 more. Together, the centres have the potential to generate as many as 8,400 jobs and $520 million in revenue over the next three years.
Kent argued for the business sense of these innovative investments in communities that are presently considered marginal.
“These under-served consumers will play a significant role in determining our market leadership in the future, many of whom will rise into the middle class in the next decade, taking their brand loyalties with them,” he added.
Speaking of the industry’s duty towards the communities in which companies live and work, Kent said, “We provide the world with sustenance, comfort and happiness."
"The world needs our leadership - and indeed expects our leadership. Truly, there's no better business to be in than ours and no greater responsibility to bear than leading the world down the path of sustainable growth and progress,” he added.-TradeArabia News Service