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Coca-Cola CEO says company will raise prices to offset higher commodity costs, first hike since 2018


James Quincey, the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, speaks during an interview with CNBC on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, December 9, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Coca-Cola will raise prices on its drinks to combat the impact of higher commodity costs, its CEO told CNBC on Monday.

The beverage company joins a number of other consumer giants, such as Kimberly-Clark and J.M. Smucker, in hiking prices. While the move will help their profit margins, it may come at the expense of cash-strapped consumers who are still struggling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are well-hedged in ’21, but there’s pressure built up for ’22, and so there will have to be some price increases,” CEO James Quincey told CNBC’s Sara Eisen on “Squawk on the Street.”

“We intend to manage those intelligently, thinking through the way we use package sizes and really optimize the price points for consumers,” he added.

Throughout the crisis, Coke shifted its production to focus on larger bulk packaging to appeal to consumers who were spending more time at home and stocking up at the grocery store. But before the pandemic, Coke and its rival PepsiCo had been pushing smaller cans and bottles, which usually carry a higher price per ounce for the consumer and are more profitable for the manufacturer. Pepsi executives said on Thursday that they expect smaller packaging to come back as the crisis subsides.

Quincey did not reveal which Coke products would have higher price tags. The company last announced a price increase in 2018, citing the impact of aluminum tariffs under President Donald Trump’s administration.

Coke shares rose less than 1% in morning trading after the company reported its first-quarter results. Coke’s earnings and revenue topped Wall Street estimates, and the company said demand in March reached pre-pandemic levels. However, executives emphasized that the company is seeing an uneven global recovery.

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