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Cola Rivals Decide to Shake Things Up

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Microsoft vs. Apple. Star Wars or Star Trek? The list of classic rivalries goes on, but in the food sector, is there one as storied as the one between the Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo? Over the past week, the companies worked out some interesting plans about their future.

The Coca-Cola Co. unveiled a CEO succession plan. Current COO James Quincey will become CEO after current CEO Muhtar Kent steps down May 1, 2017, ending a period of uncertainty following Kent’s original announcement of his intentions. During Quincey’s two decades at the company, he helped introduce smaller package sizes and other initiatives to cut the calories in the company’s beverages. According to Kent:

“Managing The Coca-Cola Company to ensure our long-term growth requires a thoughtful and orderly succession planning process…I have been engaged with our Management Development Committee and the full Board on talent development and succession discussions throughout my tenure as CEO. We are certain that James Quincey is prepared for these new responsibilities and is the absolute right choice to lead our company and system into the future.”

In addition to product innovations, Quincey was reportedly the man behind the new international operating structure that the company credits with improving efficiency. The company cited faster operating units that are more agile, and board members lauded the choice.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo is looking to leverage better-for-you snacks and beverages to win new customers in 2017 and beyond. The company will introduce a new product called Off the Eaten Path Mosaic Veggie Crisps, and plans to expand distribution of reformulated 7Up and Miranda sodas with 30% fewer calories to dozens of countries over the next 18 months. The company will also look to expand its line of chips that are baked, instead of fried, in 25 markets over the same period, reported MarketWatch (Dec. 11).

PepsiCo is making a stab at this segment in the current year, too. The company launched LIFEWTR, a premium bottled water product that aims to leverage younger consumers’ interest in the arts. It is a purified water that is pH balanced with electrolytes added for taste. The bottle itself features art from the worlds of graphic design, fashion, fine art and photography.

It will be interesting to see how the two companies implement their game plans for 2017. With rising interest in bottled waters and new laws levying taxes against sugary-products, the rivalry between PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Co. could take a few interesting turns in the new year.