NEW YORK: Coca-Cola announced Friday that chief executive Muhtar Kent will step down next year as the beverage giant confronts a tougher demand environment for soda.
James Quincey, Coca-Cola president and chief operating officer, will step into the top job in May, the company said. Kent will stay on as chairman. Quincey’s background includes extensive experience in Latin America and Northwest Europe.
The move comes as Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo face a rising trend of soda taxes in some key markets, including major US cities and Mexico. Soda sales have sagged, especially in Coca-Cola’s home market.
The soda companies have compensated for these trends by boosting sales for water and other non-carbonated drinks and, in PepsiCo’s case, boosting sales of snacks. Quincey’s promotion was praised by Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, a Coca-Cola shareholder.
“Muhtar has been an excellent steward of Coca-Cola’s business over the last eight years and I am thankful for the leadership he has provided,” Buffett said in the statement. “I know James and like him, and believe the company has made a smart investment in its future with his selection.”
Coca-Cola rose 1.2 per cent to $41.49 in pre-market trading.