The Coca-Cola Company is spending $400 million to acquire China Green (owned by Xiamen Culiangwang Beverage Technology Co.), a brand of plant-based protein drinks. The category is becoming increasingly popular in China. The move comes at a time when the country’s fast-moving consumer goods market has become less ripe for outsiders. Challenged by local players, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have seen their combined share of soft drink volume in China drop nearly 5% since 2009. Overall, global beverage brands in China have responded with acquisition binges, joint ventures or expansion of regional product offerings.
In terms of digital competence in China’s beverage market, the Coca-Cola Company’s flagship brand is a Genius; Coca-Cola is ranked No. 2 in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beverages China. The company’s brand portfolio has the highest aggregate performance (when individual brands are weighted by local volume) but also includes the poorest performing brand in the Index, Original Leaf. Coca-Cola and Sprite share a common brand site template in China, ensuring that each brand supports basic features and functionality without placing explicit limits on unique programming and promotions. The Coca-Cola Company is the only enterprise that has adopted Sina Weibo’s “Weikefu” function to respond to customer concerns in real time across all individual products.
Coca-Cola’s prioritization of larger brands, combined with limited sharing or subsidization of best practices, signals the relative autonomy of select brands and potential diseconomies of scale. By contrast, competitor Uni-President proves adept at leveraging enterprise-level marketing campaigns that benefit the wider portfolio beyond its flagship brand. It frequently features broad product portfolios that combine food and drinks in common promotions.