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Less is More: For Coca-Cola, Small Packs Mean Big Business

Coke’s latest shift in packaging has consumers wanting one more sip.  

The recent focus on smaller cans and bottles is not only generating more transactions—it’s leading Coke back to its roots.

“When we were growing up, Coke was eight ounces and we’d drink it and go for that extra sip and wish there were more,” says Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America. “That’s a good experience.”

In the first five months of 2015, retail sales of smaller packages of Coca-Cola, including 7.5-oz. mini cans, 8-oz. glass bottles and 8.5-oz. aluminum bottles, were up 17 percent in North America, building on similar growth trends reported in 2013 and 2014.

“The consumer wanting smaller, proprietary packages is an undeniable trend,” Douglas says.

While 12-oz. cans along with 2-liter and 20-oz. bottles still represent more than 70 percent of the volume of bottles and cans of Coca-Cola sold in North America, those package sizes are declining as consumers downsize to smaller options.

Coca-Cola plans to triple the availability of aluminum and glass contour bottles globally in 2015 as part of a campaign celebrating the iconic bottle’s 100th birthday

Mini can sales are also growing as consumers opt to control calories and reduce waste. In the U.S., sales of Coca-Cola mini cans have increased at double-digit rates since they were first introduced in 2007. 

Douglas says consumers increasingly report that a 20-oz. bottle is pointless if half of it is never consumed. “The consumer is telling us that they like to finish their Coke based on the timeless insight that refreshment also means finishing it,” Douglas says. “It’s that last sip that has nothing left. You wish there was more.”

While Coca-Cola was built on the idea of a “perfect” 6.5-oz. pour, the push to upsize began in 1955 when the company introduced its first king-sized bottle after only selling Coca-Cola in 6.5-oz bottles for more than 50 years. Then, in subsequent years, Coke’s internal financial model of selling beverage concentrate to bottlers incentivized the company and bottlers to focus on volume growth.

Today, however, the Coca-Cola system in North America is turning this model on its head as it realigns its business to what makes Coca-Cola unique and special to consumers.

The result of this shift is that even as sales of larger-sized legacy packages decrease, the number of overall transactions of Coca-Cola in the U.S. is growing. In the first quarter of 2015, for instance, the number of bottles and cans of Coca-Cola sold in the United States edged up over the previous year, even as volume sold declined.

“The past focus of both our company and the industry was how many gallons were sold,” Douglas says. “That’s not a good approach for anticipating and meeting consumer needs in a world exploding with choices. While this trend is just getting started, it is real and we believe the potential is great.”