By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Coca-Cola Philippines President and General Manager Winn Everhart said that despite difficulties and challenges, he believes the company will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger and a more agile organization amid a drastically changed consumer behavior that would require higher “at-home engagement.”
“Working for a company with a long, proud history as Coca-Cola, one of the things we do have on our side is our ability to look back through time and see how our business has performed coming out of a crisis,” Everhart says. “One of the things we’ve consistently seen is that if we focus on the consumer, if we focus on their needs, we see that we do emerge stronger. In fact, even the ecosystem where we operate seems to operate at an even higher rate,” said Everhart.
In a recent business leaders’ forum, Everhart shared observed a changing consumer demand with drastic adoption to online transaction.
“Thinking about this online world that everyone is moving into rapidly, we are also looking at the at-home engagement which is typically a place of strength for us in the Philippines,” Everhart said.
“We’re also seeing how categories are starting to blur and move, and we’re really beginning to leverage that full portfolio which we have in the Coca-Cola system,” he noted.
Everhart mentioned how they are seeing more at-home consumption due to the quarantine imposition, where people are made to stay at home. He also took notice of how people in the A and B market
segments are still spending like before, thanks also to a loyal customer base.
“While the number of trips they make to the supermarket are lower, actually, the number of items they buy are higher as they seek better value.”
The markets hardest hit by the pandemic, Everhart observed, are their largest customers, what with the forced closure of establishments and restaurants. Also affected are the C, D, and E segments which aren’t spending as much.
“Affordability is ringing true for our consumers. There’s a huge affordability component that we are going to have to be mindful of in the Philippines in order to make sure that consumer need is being met once we do get into the next normal, such as their desire for healthier and safer products, and as we continue to evolve into the future world as well,” he continues.
Everhart shared how Coca-Cola anticipates what he calls the ‘next normal’ and how the Company expects to adapt to such changes by serving their customers across all channels. “As we focus on the consumer, as we focus on their needs by staying as close to them as possible, we do emerge stronger.”
Seeing a pent-up demand for their products locally, Everhart remains confident that the Philippines is one of their most resilient markets. Therefore, it is imperative that they start to rethink what their business will look like and how the country will look like after the crisis.
“Now more than ever, it’s our turn to make a difference here in the Philippines. We see a great opportunity for us to emerge stronger, whether it’s through our e-commerce platform, or our digital platform, even thinking through our product innovation, and what those new consumer needs are. We
believe that everything will be just as bright as it was before.”
He also observed how the “Refresh the World, Make a Difference” mission of Coca-Cola has gained even more relevance and deeper meaning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facing the uncertainty of the next normal, Everhart shared “As we think about what we’re experiencing today in view of our long history across the world and in the Philippines, we’ve really gone back to a simple formula by asking ourselves: ‘What does it mean to survive? What does it mean to succeed coming out of this pandemic? It’s really about putting people first.”
He stressed this by pointing out the importance of understanding the needs of their people, ensuring their safety, and supporting the communities where Coca-Cola operates. “From a people perspective, I’m proud to say that our associates have stayed safe and healthy and that they’ve remained in their jobs with healthcare support,” Everhart said.
This unwavering support from the Company has allowed all 15,000 associates working in the Coca-Cola system – in plants, distribution centers, and those working from home – to continue their operations, helping ensure that their customers are being refreshed and have access to their well-loved products.
“From a community perspective, we’ve always believed that we’re only as strong and sustainable as the communities we serve,” Everhart said.
Towards this end, Coca-Cola ensures that their partners across their value chain are also well protected and empowered, as they support them in every way they can: through strengthening their presence in digital space and helping restart small businesses, to providing them with access to resources and necessary training that they can use to their advantage.
Coca-Cola has also ramped up its relief efforts in light of COVID-19, where a total of over 600,000+ liters of beverages have been distributed to different institutions and marginalized communities, close to 175,000 personal protective equipment (PPEs) have been provided to more than 51,000+ frontliners, while 39,000 food packs have helped address hunger needs to the most vulnerable.