Marius Swart has over 17 years of experience in the CPG industry. As Global Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Coca-Cola, he leads the commercial strategies and designs new innovation efforts. Since 2014, he helps lead a seed-stage venturing platform called Coca-Cola Founders, designed to co-create new, high-growth startups by connecting repeat founders with some of Coca-Cola’s biggest challenges.
He is very passionate about helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses and sharing his insights with peers in other multi-nationals. jovoto got the chance to pick his brain for his view on the challenges and opportunities for innovation within the beverages industry.
What are the biggest challenges facing global beverage brands today?
Our biggest challenges are the rate of change and the ability to keep up with it. Every non-tech company feels they are being left behind, but most struggle to figure out how to leverage all of the great innovations out there today.
What are the top three innovations that mark Coca-Cola as a future-oriented company?
1) The Coca-Cola Founders platform, as we work with repeat founders to co-create solutions to some of our biggest enterprise challenges.
2) On the product side, Coke Life. Coca-Cola Life is a reduced-calorie Coke sweetened with a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract. It contains 35% fewer calories per fluid ounce compared to other leading Cokes.
3) On the sustainability side, Coca-Cola introduced PlantBottle Technology in 2009 as the first recyclable PET plastic bottle made partially from plants. Since then, more than 18 billion PlantBottle packages have reached the market in 28 countries, saving more than 400 000 barrels of oil. We plan to convert all of the PET plastic bottles – which account for approximately 60 percent of packaging globally – to PlantBottle packaging by 2020.
Who are the key stakeholders you innovate for?
Our shareholders are our main innovation-drivers. My definition of innovation is not a completely new product (that is rather an invention), but rather developing an existing product to create new value for the business, which in turn results in a higher stock price for all shareholders.
What factor makes brands successful in the beverage industry?
The main factor that makes a brand successful is customer’s trust in the quality of the brand and product. Imagine you are grocery shopping and have to decide between two brands that seem almost identical. You will likely buy the product you’ve already heard of, over the lesser known one. This perception can be related to a delivery of a promise, or what I call trust.
Do you think it is important for brands to co-create with their consumers, and if so, why?
Core design-thinking principles are the basis for our Coca-Cola Founders model, which is why I completely stand behind co-creation efforts. Startups are so successful at being disruptive because they make things that consumers want versus making consumers want things, which is an important viewpoint to have.
How do you imagine the future of beverages to look like?
The barriers to entry will be even lower. The 4th industrial, or digital, revolution that we are currently experiencing has made it, and will continue to make it, easier for competitors to pop up and become a potential threat to larger players due to significant efficiencies in manufacturing and distribution. Soon it will be possible to produce anything on demand.
After a successful Crowdstorm with Coke on the future of the Coca-Cola crate, we are delighted to be working with Marius Swart as a jury member for the Future of Food & Beverages project. Learn more about the first global think tank delivering inspiration, innovation, and tangible solutions shaping tomorrow: www.futureoffoodandbeverages.com
Join us at the Future of Food conference in Berlin on October 28, 2016 to explore exciting food and beverages industry innovations and developments! Buy Tickets here.