The revelation from CCEP’s vice president for GB sales Rob Harris came in an exclusive interview with The Morning Advertiser, in which Harris explained how the company had reacted to the coronavirus both internally and externally.
At the outbreak of the pandemic in the UK, prior to the country’s lockdown at the backend of March, CCEP ensured its 3,600 employees retained their positions and the company did not access the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, nor any other taxpayer funded financial support.
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“From the get-go, in early March, we set ourselves three very clear priorities that have guided us,” explains Harris, who says the company’s learnings from the CO2 shortage that impacted swathes of soft and alcoholic drinks producers in 2018 had put the business in a better position to plan for coronavirus disruption.
“The first thing was to protect our people, to ensure their safety and employment, then to support our customers through this difficult time and also the communities we work and live in,” he continues.
A three-phase plan was put together in a bid to help the on-trade, including initial support in the early days of the crisis, moving on to the practicalities of how the sector can reopen, followed by the third and final phase of ensuring businesses reopen successfully and get back on their feet.
“From the beginning of lockdown and throughout phase one, our focus was on communicating with customers, as every one of them has experienced this crisis in a different way and we’ve been supporting as many as we can,” explains Harris, who says CCEP focused support on all types of operations big and small. “There wasn’t a one-size-fits-all for any of this, help was bespoke to each customer.”
He continues: “We also looked at cash support, which was critical to many businesses. Cash is king in business and we’ve had many businesses request to defer payments in recent months and we’ve accepted that for many customers whose businesses’ were fully closed or operating at reduced levels.”
And at the same time, Harris and CCEP has been lobbying the Government to provide additional support for the on-trade. Using its position on a Government food and drink sector group to discuss a number of issues including encouraging politicians to commit to £10bn in guarantees for the trade credit insurance sector to support the pub and wider hospitality sector reopen in July.
“We’ve also been focused on gaining additional Government support, such as a reduction in VAT for the hospitality sector, which can really help cash-strapped businesses in the long term.”
Although lobbying the Government will help pubs, it is top level and support that will eventually filter down into everyday business.
The Coca-Cola Company and Foundation donated $120M globally to support the coronavirus response.
Harris said: "To date, this money in GB is being used to build on our six-year partnership with FareShare, the UK’s biggest food redistribution charity, by giving them a donation that will provide the equivalent of nearly two million healthy meals to people living in isolation, families with children, the elderly and vulnerable and those recently unemployed, in addition to a million drinks."
In terms of how CCEP is directly helping the on-trade to reopen successfully, there are several facets to phase two and three.
For the past few weeks, CCEP’s Customer Hub team along with its 160 engineers have been contacting the 30,000 outlets with Coca-Cola equipment in them. The understanding is that much of the equipment may not have been turned off or sanitised correctly before closing, so CCEP is ensuring it can be restarted and functional when a venue reopens.
Prior to reopening
“We’ve been in contact by phone or email with outlets advising what to do prior to reopening,” says Harris.
“We’ve got 160 tech experts and engineers on the road at the moment and they’ve been out since mid-May, sanitising post-mix and freestyle equipment.”
But demand for the service has, understandably, been overwhelming and so Harris is asking for customers to be understanding, but assures everyone who needs technical help and support will receive it as soon as possible.
In terms of product support, CCEP will be launching a big marketing campaign – more details at a later date – and has also developed two strong offers to help outlets restock.
Some 9,000 free-trade, and leased and tenanted outlets will be given the opportunity to receive four free bag-in-box syrups to replace out of date stock and to get them up and running again, including Diet Coke, Coca-Cola zero sugar and Schweppes Lemonade.
There will also be a wholesale promotion running from July where operators can buy two cases of glass packaged products and get one free, compared with the usual offer of buy five and get one free.
“Our advice to customers is to focus on the proven winners,” explains Harris. “Around 69% of soft drinks sales last year were in colas, lemonades and mixers, so as of now in all of our wholesale partners you can access these products on the buy two, get one free offer.”