Colombia Solidarity Campaign
PO Box 8446,
London N17 6NZ
Tel 07743 743041

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Irish Coca Cola Boycott Spreads

The Irish response to the call for a boycott of Coco Cola because of the ongoing campaign of murder of workers in Coca Cola bottling plants in Colombia is spreading. On Saturday 11th October 2003 the John Hewitt Bar and Restaurant one of Belfast's best known and most prestigious bars became the first public house in Ireland to remove Coca Cola from its shelves.

Then it emerged that the Cultúrlann McAdaimh Ó Fiaich an Irish language cultural centre and one of the foremost tourist centres in Belfast has also stopped serving Coca Cola to its customers.

Now the students of University College Dublin the largest student campus in Ireland have voted in a referendum not to serve Coca Cola in any student union outlet on the campus.

Campaigners for the boycott are buoyed up by the growing success of the call to boycott Coca Cola and are seeking to spread the boycott as quickly as possible to other drinks outlets.

The quicker Coca Cola get the message and take steps to stop the murders and ill treatment of workers in their subsidiary plants in Colombia, the better for all concerned.

Now is the time to spread the boycott as far and as fast as possible. Individually each of us can stop drinking Coca Cola and urge others to do likewise. Make your view known to your local drinks outlet and ask them to withdraw Coca Cola from their shelves and stock an alternative.

Among the alternatives available are Mecca Cola ( which can be ordered at TOPMARK, Carry and Carry distributors Linfield Industrial estate, Sandy Row, Belfast, 02890 435870.

BRIEFING NOTE - Coca-Cola's Bottling Companies

Coca Cola's website page on Colombia states that:

"The Coca-Cola Company has bottler agreements with independent companies that own and operate 20 bottling plants that manufacture and distribute Coca-Cola products."

This note looks only at company ownership, let alone common branding, company policies and practices that bind contracted bottlers to Coca Cola. Let us investigate just how 'independent' Coca-Cola's bottlers really are.

Coca Cola's main bottler in Colombia is called Panamco Colombia, it operates 17 out of the 20 plants, and is a subsidiary of Miami based Panamerican Beverages Inc, (Panamco). Panamco was one of Coke strategic 'anchor bottlers'. In December 2002 another major bottler, the firm Coca-Cola FEMSA announced it would buy Panamco for $3.6 billion. This acquisition was completed six months later.

Since, according to the South Florida Business Journal "Coca-Cola owns about one-fourth of Panamco", the buy out involved Coca-Cola Co. receiving about 304 million shares of Coca-Cola FEMSA worth $674 million, in exchange for its Panamco shares.

While Coca-Cola Co. owned 25% of Panamco, it also already owned 30% of Coca Cola-Femsa. The buy out leaves Coca-Cola Co. with 40% of the combined entity Coca-Cola Femsa-Panamco.

Coca-Cola FEMSA-Panamco will have revenues estimated at $4.6 billion and estimated annual gross profits of $1 billion. It is the leading bottler of Coca-Cola products in Latin America, and with about 10 per cent of Coca-Cola's worldwide sales, the second-largest Coca-Cola bottler (the largest is Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises).

The significance of the overseas bottling subsidiaries for group profits is immense. According to industry analyst Milton Boki "Coca Cola obtains 75% of its profits outside the US, a considerable proportion of this comes from Latin America".

The merger is seen as complementary in two respects. Geographically, FEMSA already dominated the Mexican and Argentine markets. Panamco has brought with it a leading position in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Through FEMSA-Panamco, Coca-Cola bestrides Latin America.

As far as product lines are concerned, FEMSA is already strong in beer as well as soft drinks in Mexico, where there is a high consumption of soft drinks due to lack of adequate drinking water. With limited public services breaking down, and with service privatisations, failure to provide drinking water from the tap is a continental issue, especially for the poor. Public services are deteriorating, and the sale of bottled alternatives is an expanding market with the potential to increase even more rapidly. Access to the water market is part of the attraction of Panamco, and perhaps why FEMSA paid so much for it. As noted by Boki "the purchase of Panamco opens the possibility of using its enormous distribution and marketing system to sell bottled water and other soft drinks that are alternatives to the classic Coca Cola."

The Coca-Cola FEMSA Panamco takeover was completed in June 2003. On 11th September, Panamco Colombia announced it would "stop production at 11 of its 17 plants to boost efficiency"
We have seen that Panamco the bottling company is a vehicle for Coke's expansion into the Latin American drinks market. But this expansion only makes commercial sense so long as it is profitable for the parent company.