Coca-Cola CEO says 'willingness to be bolder' paid off in first quarter

  • Coca-Cola attributes its strong first-quarter earnings to bold bets it has taken.
  • Coke's recent Diet Coke rollout helped the drink return to volume growth in North America.

Coca-Cola, which surpassed analysts' expectations for its first-quarter earnings, attributed its strong performance to its willingness to be bold.

"I think actually, in a way, the biggest shift is our willingness to be bolder, to innovate, to try more things in the marketplace and to follow the consumer," CEO James Quincey told CNBC's Sara Eisen on Tuesday.

Coke's new Diet Coke rollout, with slimmer packaging and flavors like Feisty Cherry, helped propel the drink back to volume growth in North America.

"Look, we have been trying a few things on Diet Coke. It has been a while since it grew," said Quincey. "I think the team has done a great job in finding something that really catches people's attention, whether packaging, marketing or new flavors, which I think are more millennial relevant."

Coke said earlier Tuesday that first-quarter organic sales, which strips out the impact of currency, grew 5 percent.

"We grew in sparkling, we grew faster in zero calorie, we grew in other categories as well," said Quincey. "We have a really broad portfolio play that is really engaging with consumers."

Still, Quincey noted not all of Coke's drinks are seeing growth as strong as that.

"We have given up a little on some of the low-value water," he said, in favor of focusing more on premium.