Food & Beverage

Coca-Cola CEO: Dealmaking in 2019 will likely slow down as company integrates recent acquisitions

Key Points
  • Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the company is unlikely to match the number of deals it made in 2018 next year.
  • Coke announced a $5.1 billion acquisition of British coffee chain Costa Coffee in August. Quincey said the company will focus on its coffee rather than competing in retail.
  • Quincey also said that Coke will not include CBD, a cannabis compound, in any of its products until it is legal, safe and consumable.
Watch the full interview with Coca-Cola CEO and incoming Chairman James Quincey

Coca-Cola made six deals in 2018, but CEO James Quincey said Tuesday that investors shouldn't expect Coke to keep up that pace next year.

"We've got to absorb the ones we've invested in in 2018 but experience will tell you that they just don't come up at that sort of rhythm," he told CNBC's Sara Eisen on "Squawk on the Street"

In the last several years, consumer staple companies like Coca-Cola have turned to dealmaking to fuel growth, further consolidating these industries. Quincey said Coke tries to focus on its consumers and take a disciplined approach to building its international portfolio.

"As we lean forward into a broader portfolio, we're starting to get the growth people want us to start riding, and I think that's coming through in the stock," Quincey said. Shares of the company are up more than 7 percent so far this year, standing relatively strong against broader market volatility. Coke has a market value of $209.8 billion, higher than its more diversified rival PepsiCo, which is valued at $165 billion.

Coke's $5.1 billion acquisition of the British chain Costa Coffee is an upcoming addition to its portfolio. The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2019. Costa serves as Coke's introduction to retail as the coffee chain operates more than 3,800 locations worldwide, according to Statista.

American fans of Costa's coffee shops shouldn't expect locations to come soon to the United States. Quincey said that Coke's primary focus will be on the coffee rather than competing in retail, which would bring it head-to-head against food-service customers like McDonald's.

The Costa acquisition will let the Atlanta-based company market itself to customers as a provider of both hot and cold beverages. For example, Costa has touchscreen vending machines that make hot beverages with the chain's coffee beans.

Coke already has its own Freestyle beverage machines, which allow users to customize their beverages. But it is also testing machines that will allow Powerade sports drinks to be customized as well. The company also has other vending machines that can recognize consumers with a water bottle with a special chip in it. This allows customers to more quickly receive their favorite beverages. The upside for Coke is that it receives more data about its customers' preferences.

One rumored area of interest for future deals is in the cannabis industry. (Coke has previously denied rumors that it was talking with marijuana producer Aurora Cannabis about a possible partnership.)

The beverage industry has had its eye on cannabis as an opportunity for growth. Pepsi has said it is keeping an eye on the industry, while Corona beer-maker Constellation Brands has invested in cannabis company Canopy Growth.

Quincey said that Coke will hold off from including CBD, a cannabis compound, in any of its products until it is "legal, safe and consumable."

"Consensus science is not out there," he said. "For us, as a large consumer company, consumers expect us to be on the safest end of the consumer side."