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Coca-Cola fetching higher prices with marketing, mini-cans

By CANDICE CHOI
AP Food Industry Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Coca-Cola says people are shelling out more money for its drinks, thanks to a mix of reinvigorated marketing and mini-cans and glass bottles that tend to cost more.

To help boost weak sales growth, the maker of Sprite, Fanta and Powerade has been slashing costs, then pouring some of that money into increased marketing.

The Atlanta-based company, known for more than a century's worth of ads such as "I'd Like To Buy The World A Coke," says the stepped-up quality and quantity of its advertising is helping it command higher prices for its drinks.

In a conference call with analysts Wednesday, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent said the company's revenue growth in North America during the second quarter would not have been achieved without the "infusion" of improved marketing, and more of it.

Without providing specifics, the company said overall advertising spending saw a double-digit percentage increase during the quarter.

In the U.S., a recent campaign is the "Share A Coke" program, which puts popular names and words like "Friend" and "Legend" on packages. Many customers snap pictures of the cans and bottles, then post them on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.

The increased focus on marketing comes as Coca-Cola faces broader challenges in the U.S., with beverage options proliferating and people continuing to move away from traditional sodas.

That has prompted the company to focus on extracting more money per transaction by raising prices on traditional packages and pushing offerings like mini-cans that cost more. During the quarter, the company said volume of mini-cans rose double-digits. It did not say what percentage of total volume the smaller packs account for.

Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, noted that moms in particular like the smaller sizes and that people are willing to pay "a little bit more money" for them.

In the past, Douglas noted that the company marketed packages that were too big and led to waste.

Total volume for carbonated drinks in North America rose just 1 percent during the period. That increase was due to the company's expanded distribution of Monster energy drinks. When including non-carbonated drinks like Powerade, volume for North America rose 2 percent.

Organic revenue for the region rose 5 percent, however, thanks to higher pricing and the smaller packages.

For the quarter ended July 3, Coca-Cola Co. said its profit rose to $3.11 billion, or 71 cents per share. Not including one-time items such as the gain related to its deal to acquire a stake in Monster Beverage Corp., it said it earned 63 cents per share.

Analysts on average expected 60 cents per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

Total revenue including regions around the world slipped to $12.16 billion, dragged down by the impact of foreign currency exchange rates. Coca-Cola said organic revenue, which strips out such factors, rose 4 percent overall for the period.

A year earlier, the company earned $2.6 billion, or 58 cents per share.

Shares of Coca-Cola edged up 11 cents to $41.30.

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