Coca-Cola ‘Will Not Waste This Crisis’

April 22/Duluth, Ga./Associated Press Financial Wire -- Coca-Cola Co. sees a chance to increase its market share during the economic slowdown and does not plan to waste the opportunity, the chief executive of the world's largest beverage maker told shareholders.

Muhtar Kent said at the company's annual meeting that Coca-Cola was poised to grow in these tough times as it did during the Great Depression.

"There's no reason we cannot apply the same courage to navigate through the current crisis," Kent told shareholders. "Indeed, we will not waste this crisis."

Kent said it was possible that Coca-Cola would miss its growth targets a quarter or two this year. He did not say why, though the company has said the strong dollar could mean missed targets this year. However, Kent vowed that the company is committed to meeting or exceeding those targets over time.

He said the Atlanta-based business sees opportunities in pushing its top brands like Coca-Cola in emerging markets like China and in ones where it has solid footing, such as the U.S. and Mexico.

The company is also pushing a new 16oz, $0.99 version of its top brands, meant to be seen as a bargain from its 20oz bottles that cost between $1.25 and $1.50.

Coca-Cola said its first-quarter profit fell 10% because of one-time costs and the dollar's strength. The company said consumers overseas bought more of its products in the three-month period ending in March, but North American volume fell as consumers pulled back on their spending.

Investors were concerned about the drag of the U.S. dollar, which hurts companies that do business overseas as it gains strength.

From the April 27, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition