January 30/Atlanta/The Economic Times-- The Coca-Cola Co. plans to invest $1 billion in its operations in Mexico this year as part of a $5 billion long-term investment plan, CEO Muhtar Kent has said.

Kent made the announcement in a joint appearance with Mexican President Felipe Calderon during the World Economic Forum. Calderon has been meeting with potential investors at the gathering of the world's most powerful business leaders.

Coca-Cola expects to create 10,000 new jobs in Mexico over the next five years, Kent said. The Atlanta-based company currently employs 93,000 people directly and another 800,000 indirectly in Mexico, making it one of the largest employers in that country, Kent said.

Coca-Cola has doubled the size of its product portfolio in Mexico in the past six years and now offers 60 brands and 400 products.

 The U.S. beverage giant's decision to expand its investments in Mexico "will give a strong boost to the economy" and provide "more and better jobs for Mexicans," Calderon said.

 Mexico has a young population and rising incomes, offering "positive growth despite the circumstances today", Calderon said, referring to the economic problems in Europe and the United States.

Nearly 600,000 new jobs were created in the formal sector of Mexico's economy last year, while 800,000 jobs were created in 2010, the president said.

"So, it amounted to nearly 1.5 million jobs after the worst period in the crisis we experienced," Calderon said.

Job growth boosts the number of consumers in the country for companies like Coca-Cola, the president said.

"In fact, in an atmosphere of global crisis, we have received direct foreign investment of $106 billion in five years," Calderon said.

Companies that operate soundly and create jobs "will always have an ally in us to move forward," the Mexican president said.

 From the January 27, 2012, Prepared Foods' Daily News.