What role does innovation play at Coca-Cola European Partners?

Posted on 19 Jun 2017 by Jonny Williamson

The Manufacturer recently sat down with Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at Coca-Cola European Partners Sidcup to discuss product and business-wide innovation.

Innovation - Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at Coca-Cola European Partners Sidcup.
Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at Coca-Cola European Partners Sidcup.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) Sidcup has seven manufacturing lines, producing more than 42 million cases of drinks every year. With a fill-rate of 5,000 bottles and cans every minute, and having to cater for a fast-moving marketplace, it’s no surprise that innovation is a cornerstone of the business.

Currently, the amount of activities based on the product itself versus the manufacturing process, packaging and materials is about half and half, Trevor Stacey explained.

“There’s quite a lot of work on new flavours and enhancing existing products as consumers require an increasingly diverse portfolio. There’s also increasing competition in the marketplace, so we’re looking at whether we should change or reformulate some products or introduce new flavour variants.

“Reformulating a recipe doesn’t sound like a significant undertaking, but bear in mind that we’ve got to rigorously test it and ensure that products can be batched up correctly. When we introduce a new flavour we don’t want to suddenly have a step-change in terms of our yields. We also work very closely with our suppliers to make sure that anything coming in is arriving in the right format for us to be able to manage with our existing infrastructure.”

Sidcup has a new initiatives manager who is the only person solely dedicated to innovation, however, everything the entire engineering team does can be related to innovation in some way. Each of the site’s production managers are also continually exploring new initiatives and process adjustments.

Stacey noted: “Sidcup is trialing a new initiative of one sort or another, even if just a new light-weighted film, about two times a week and on average about 50 weeks a year. So, around 100 coming through the factory every 12 months.”

These initiatives are predominantly geared around sustainability or profitability, preferably both. Increasing sustainability involves continually reducing the weight of everything the site produces, so there’s a strong focus on light-weighting packaging in particular which in turn feeds into greater profitability. There is also a strong focus on ensuring that everything that wraps the product is recyclable and can pass through existing local recycling streams.

The other side of the innovation agenda focuses on the customer. Sidcup and the entire CCEP network are continuously looking at new packaging formats which may be more attractive and help differentiate the business from its competition. CCEP produces some of the world’s most well-known, classic brands and flavours, but that doesn’t mean it’s also not looking at new variants or product introductions.