Cola Wars Case

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"Cola Wars Continue: Coke and Pepsi in 2010"

Read and Apply: Michael E. Porter (2008), “The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy”, Harvard Business Review, (January 2008), pp. 2-17 Assignment Questions (AQ)

(a) Why has the soft drink industry been so profitable for concentrate producers? Compare the economics of the concentrate business to the bottling business: why is the profitability so different? [50% points]

The soft drink industry has been extremely profitable for Concentrate producers. When we study the 5 forces analysis, we come to a conclusion that almost all the forces have contributed significantly in this massive profit generating mechanism. Threat of new entrants is low and there are multiple high barriers to entry. Despite the low cost of establishing a concentrate production plant, the producers have to develop exclusive relations with bottling plants and support them in marketing research, advertising and setting up distribution channels which is difficult for new entrants and require huge capital infusion. Bargaining power of Buyers used to be negligible as concentrate producers used to make bottlers abide by fixed price contracts which made them operate on razor thin margins. After adoption of incidence pricing, the bottling plants renegotiated for different distribution channels and different product ranges as the bargaining power shifted and the prices were increased based on consumer price index and inflation. But this bargaining power was kept in check since concentrate producers did not allow a bottling plant to gain significant market influence and they regularly bought out bottling plants to maintain their control.(Exhibit 3b) Bargaining power of suppliers was minuscule since all products are basic commodities like sweetener, caffeine and color with multiple suppliers who do not hold much bargaining power with a large corporation. Threat of substitute product is suppose to be high since there are a variety of substitutes available which meet the end purpose of quenching the thirst and consumer being open to healthy or low calorie substitutes like tea, juice or energy drink. But the conventional concentrate producer has diversified its product portfolio to meet all demands and keep its consumer base loyal. Also strengthening distribution networks and creating advertisement campaign has led to consumer retention.(Exhibit 8) Competition is high since major brands competing are Coca cola and pepsi who compete at every level, from product range and bottling plants to retailer selection and advertisement. Both concentrate producers are have deep pockets to execute swift decisions and they have adopted similar strategies to gain market share and consolidate. They have a staggering market presence controlling nearly 3/4th of the market and they have surgically acquired or contained all other competitors.(Exhibit 2) By the 5 force analysis, it is visible that the immense market experience and availability of funds had led concentrate producers to use almost all the forces in their advantage to maintain high profitability. In contrast to the concentrate producer, the bottling plants operate on one-third of the profit margin percent, this can be explained by the contrasts in the economics using the 5 force analysis for bottling plants. Threat of new entrants was traditionally low since high capital requirement acts as as high barrier of entry but the threat from the concentrate producer entity emerging as a bottler is high ever since they have started vertical integrations by providing concentration at lower rates for better margins to self-owned entities. Bargaining power of buyers is high since bottling plants have no unique value proposition and they compete with identical competitors for a vastly segmented market. They conduct extensive negotiations with different channels on stock, pricing and space. They develop complex price strategies for maintaining exclusive contracts with nation...
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