Unseasonal rains have made this summer a challenging one for beverages major Coca-Cola India although sales became better as the season progressed, according to Vice President Sundeep Bajoria.
The company also believes that consumers will not jump the gun on the issue of the artificial sweetener aspartame, which according to reports may be declared "possibly carcinogenic to humans".
The current summer season was "challenging" due to weather changes and drop in temperature. However, the company's performance in the summer season was better when it exited than it entered, said.
"It was one of the challenging summer seasons, but we ended better from where we started off," he said on the sidelines of an event organised hereby the Indian Beverage Association.
There is no way out of such sudden change in the weather conditions and the country has seen summer rains after every few years, he said, adding the beverage players have to make sure that they are better connected with the consumers.
Bajoria did not elaborate the challenge the company faced but said it was across its beverage products including fizz and fruit juices.
Summer season would remain to be a big driver of consumption for the beverage industry, particularly for away-from-home channels, he added.
When asked about the reports over aspartame, which is used in Diet Coke as an artificial sweetener, he declined to comment.
According to him, this is based on some leaks. "Let's wait for the new report and we will know how it is and then will be in a better position to actually talk about..., Bajoria said.
Bajoria also denied any impact on the sales and said consumers are now very savvy and smart and "are so much used to a lot of different views and they are able to move on".
"I think everyone the consumers, even the discerning ones, would be waiting for the reality and truth," he said, adding, "There is no reaction from the regulators from India and no reaction from any of the global regulators. I do not see consumer jumping the gun," he said.
The company would wait for the "truth to be out fully and we will be in shape...".
Coca-Cola has plans to roll out low-sugar/no-sugar variants across its brands in India, which is a big market for the company for its aerated drinks.
"Choice would be always there," he said, adding, "We have a lot of plans. The pipeline is very busy. The sequence of which one comes first and which one comes later depends on a lot of factors not only on a leak but supply chain readiness and bottler alignment etc."
Over the entry of new entrants in the sector, he said: "We welcome competition. After a long time, beverage in India has started to attract investments and new players."
This is the validation that Coca-Cola is on the right track and the investment are being made at the right place, he said, adding that there is enough space for growth as the industry is at a nascent stage.
"We are still at a very-very nascent stage as per the development of beverage as the industry is concerned. Competition is fantastic," he said, adding, "It does not impact pricing.
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