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Over the past months Freshfel Europe has been advocating in cooperation with its members for more flexibility from the UK when it comes to the obligation for EU fresh produce exports to the UK to carry phytosanitary certificates from 1 April. In an announcement (March 11th) by the UK government about the adjustment of the timelines in the introduction of controls for EU imports, made in a written statement by RT Hon Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, is therefore warmly welcomed by Freshfel Europe and the fruit and vegetables sector as a crucial relief to enable the sector to smoothly adapt to Brexit in the ever-challenging context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the announcement, the UK agrees to postpone the introduction of phytosanitary certification obligations for most fresh produce, considered low risk plant products, until January 2022, when documentary checks will start to apply. Physical checks at Border Control Posts on fresh produce will only be applied from March 2022. Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard emphasized that, “Freshfel Europe has been voicing strong concerns over the last months and we consider that this postponement is essential to ensure the supply of the UK market and the continuation of trade flows through the Channel, across which the EU27 exports over 3 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables a year”. Currently EU supply represents 40 % of the UK’s internal demand for fresh produce.

Following this welcome news, the sector further calls EU and UK authorities to make the most of this extended 9- month transition to speed-up preparations to ensure the smooth running of operations in 2022. The challenge remains enormous – over 750,000 phytosanitary certificates will be required on an annual basis to sustain EU-UK trade in fresh produce, a substantial economic and administrative burden, and a threat to the capacity of the industry to continue ‘just in time’ operations if administrative procedures are not sped-up. Freshfel Europe Director for Trade and Market Access Natalia Santos-Garcia Bernabe, highlighted that, “In Freshfel Europe and FPC’s letter to the RT Hon Michael Gove, the sector reiterated the need for electronic certification transmission between the EU and the UK to be up and running before the end of the year through the e-Phyto hub”. The postponement will give more time on both side of the Channel to work on digitalization and the successful introduction of electronic certification in 2022.

The Coca-Cola Company reported a solid start to 2019, with continued momentum that included gaining global value share. Reported net revenues grew 5 % in the first quarter, and organic revenues (non-GAAP) grew 6 %, with positive performance across all operating groups, in addition to a benefit from timing.

“We’re encouraged by our first quarter results as our disciplined growth strategies continue to deliver strong underlying performance,” said James Quincey, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “We remain confident in our full year guidance as we continue to make progress on our transformation as a consumer-centric total beverage company.”

Highlights

Quarterly Performance

  • Revenues: Net revenues grew 5% to $8.0 billion. Organic revenues (non-GAAP) grew 6 %. An estimated 2 points of revenue growth was attributable to timing, primarily related to bottler inventory build in order to manage uncertainty related to Brexit. Additionally, the quarter included one less day, which resulted in an approximate 1-point headwind to revenue growth.
  • Margin: Operating margin for the quarter, which included items impacting comparability, was 29.1 % versus 23.7 % in the prior year. Comparable operating margin (non-GAAP) was 30.5 % versus 30.7 % in the prior year. Strong underlying margin (non-GAAP) expansion was offset by an approximate 260 basis point negative impact from currency headwinds and net acquisitions.
  • Earnings per share: EPS from continuing operations grew 24 % to $0.38. Comparable EPS from continuing operations (non-GAAP) grew 2 % to $0.48, despite an 11-point currency headwind. EPS included an estimated 2 cent benefit from timing, primarily from the bottler inventory build related to Brexit.
  • Market share: The company continued to gain value share in total nonalcoholic ready-to-drink (NARTD) beverages.
  • Cash flow: Cash from operations was $699 million, up 14 %. Free cash flow (non-GAAP) was $335 million, down 1 % as strong underlying cash generation was offset by currency headwinds along with an increase in capital expenditures and cash tax payments.
  • Share repurchases: Purchases of stock for treasury were $397 million. Net share repurchases (non-GAAP) totaled $243 million.

Company Updates

  • Chairman transition and an evolving growth culture: Following the company’s annual meeting on April 24, James Quincey will become the 14th chairman of The Coca-Cola Company, contingent upon his reelection as a director. Quincey succeeds Muhtar Kent, who is retiring after a Coca-Cola system career that started in 1978. Kent served as chairman and CEO from 2009 until 2017 and then as chairman after Quincey became CEO. Quincey intends to build on the strong foundation Kent has established within the system, including a focus on fostering a growth-oriented culture.
  • Pursuing the company’s World Without Waste goals: Supporting its commitment to the World Without Waste initiative and improved transparency, the company issued its annual progress report, which cited continued progress globally on design, collect and partner efforts. For example, the company, along with its bottling partners, now has 100 % recycled PET bottles in multiple markets and will have them in more than a dozen markets by the end of 2019, driving successful circular solutions for packaging. Much of the system’s Latin America business is engaged in a multi-country project to significantly increase the use of refillable packaging, and markets globally are assessing ways to move toward more diverse business models for product delivery.
  • Broadening a consumer-centric portfolio: During the quarter, the company completed its acquisition of Costa Ltd., which gives Coca-Cola a significant entry point into hot beverages and a global platform in coffee. In the second quarter, the company will begin to leverage Costa’s scalable platform across formats and channels with the introduction of Costa ready-to-drink products. Coca-Cola also closed its acquisition of CHI Ltd., an innovative, fast-growing leader in expanding beverage categories in West Africa, including juices, value-added dairy and iced tea.
  • Driving profitable growth under the Leader, Challenger, Explorer framework: Strong innovation within Leader brands included double-digit growth for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar globally for the sixth consecutive quarter. Within the U.S., the company showed strong performance for Orange Vanilla Coke and Orange Vanilla Coke Zero Sugar, which helped drive 6 % retail value growth for brand Coca-Cola. The company also launched Simply smoothies in the U.S., while innocent, the company’s leading juice brand in Europe, expanded into plant-based beverages. As a Challenger brand, smartwater continues to innovate through the successful rollout of smartwater antioxidant and smartwater alkaline in the U.S. Within Explorer brands, the company continued to capitalize on brands with edge, including Aquarius GlucoCharge, which has shown early signs of success in the fast-growing enhanced hydration category in India.
  • Aligned and engaged system investing for growth: The company has established a sustained platform for performance that is focused on disciplined portfolio growth through an aligned and engaged system. Across the bottling system, the company is seeing the right strategic investments in supply chain, cold-drink equipment and sales force capabilities to drive accelerated results. These investments are creating a winning strategy in the marketplace, centered around improved execution that is committed to increasing the availability of core products, in addition to expanding the total portfolio.

Download the full earnings release (PDF)