October 15, 2007/Trieste, Italy & Atlanta/Business Wire -- The Coca-Cola Company and illycaffè SpA announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to form a global joint venture focused on the premium ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee segment leveraging illy's world class expertise in the art of the espresso to capture opportunities in this high-growth, profitable beverage category with new brands and products.

The RTD coffee category globally is valued at just under $10 billion and has experienced several years of growth that is expected to continue. Globally (excluding Japan), the ready-to-drink coffee category has grown at an average rate of 10.1% over the past five years.

"illy is a proven leader with an uncompromising commitment to high-quality espresso coffee and a strong history of innovation with whom we are proud to partner," said Muhtar Kent, president and chief operating officer, The Coca-Cola Company. "We will be able to bring our brand building and distribution expertise together with illy's premium brand reputation. This partnership demonstrates our commitment to meeting evolving consumer demands while creating additional value for our system, our customers and our shareowners."

"We are proud to partner with the top brand name in sparkling beverages to offer the illy taste to a new range of consumers as well as those who love our traditional espresso tastes to meet new consumption moments," said Andrea Illy chairman, illycaffè. "Our R&D and product know-how will join The Coca-Cola Company's industrial and distribution infrastructure to develop a high quality ready-to-drink coffee."

While the specifics on brands and distribution have not yet been finalized, both parties expect the final joint venture agreements to be signed by the end of 2007.

From the October 22, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash