Food & Beverage

Coca-Cola CEO: 'Never say never' on getting into booze, but it 'doesn't make sense' right now

Key Points
  • Analysts have recently speculated whether Coke will expand into cocktail mixers or actual drinks with alcohol, in an effort to drive growth.
  • Coca-Cola is hosting its first investor day in eight years in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday.
  • The beverage giant reaffirmed its full-year guidance ahead of the meeting.
Coca-Cola CEO: Broadening into new categories drives growth
Coca-Cola CEO: Broadening into new categories drives growth

Coca-Cola will never say never on getting into alcoholic beverages, but it doesn't make sense right now, CEO James Quincey told CNBC on Thursday.

Analysts recently speculated that Coke would expand its portfolio to include cocktail mixers or actual alcoholic drinks, in an effort to drive growth.

"Philosophically, I never say never about most things, but the way I look at it, there's just so much more we already have strength and capability in, it just doesn't make sense to do that next. It makes more sense to do things that are more synergistic with your consumers and your capabilities as a company and a system," Quincey told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

Innovation will continue to be part of Coke's strategy, Quincey said. Some consumer goods companies have bought innovation by acquiring small, on-trend brands.

When asked specifically about whether Coke would buy energy drink company Monster, which it already has a 16.7 percent stake in, Quincey declined to comment on speculation. However, he said the beverage company will continue to make bolt-on acquisitions.

"Whether it's a bolt-on or it's anything transformational, it's always got to obey three criteria: there's a strategic fit, there's a logic strategically, and the numbers financially add up, and there's opportunity," he said. "It takes two to tango."

Another issue confronting Coke is soda taxes, which have been popping up in more jurisdictions to raise revenue and push consumers to healthier drinks.

Soda taxes aren't an "existential" crisis to Coke, Quincey said, though he shared his doubt on their effect on solving the obesity crisis. As to what Coke can do, he said that includes its formulations, packages and information it shares on products.

"When we can take action, we absolutely have the responsibility to do so, but we believe that solving the obesity crisis, which does need to be solved, will require a much broader response from private companies and the government rather than thinking a narrow tax is going to solve it," he said.

Coke's new Zero Sugar offering is growing, Quincey said. The drink was introduced in the U.S. in August to replace Coke Zero after proving successful overseas. The introduction helped boost the company's performance last quarter.

Coke reaffirmed its full-year guidance ahead of Thursday's investor day, the company's first in eight years. Quincey took over in May after serving as Coke's chief operating officer.

Shares of Coke have gained 13 percent this year, a rare story in the consumer goods industry that has been hammered amid changing shopping and eating habits. They were up 0.3 percent on Thursday.

—CNBC's Sara Eisen contributed to this reporting.