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商业 - 消费品

可口可乐:在外包策略上建立起来的含糖饮料帝国

• Bartow Elmore 2014年11月28日

在让其他企业和地方政府帮助公司分担大部分生产分销成本这一方面,可口可乐的本事可谓无人能出其右。

    可口可乐诞生源于一个药物问题。

    可口可乐(Coca-Cola)品牌的创始人是亚特兰大药剂师约翰•彭伯顿。他在美国内战中参加过保卫佐治亚州哥伦布市的战斗,据很多人猜测,因为参战导致伤病缠身,他染上了吸食吗啡(一种麻醉剂)的恶习。19世纪80年代,彭伯顿的健康状况非常糟糕,同时经济上也遭受打击。1872年,彭伯顿申请破产。几年后,他又眼睁睁地看着自己在亚特兰大的生意在两场大火中被付之一炬。1886年,他终于摆脱债务缠身的窘境,但是手头依然缺钱。

    就在这一年,彭伯顿在亚特兰大推出了可口可乐。19世纪70年代末,一种叫做Vin Mariani的法国专利药物在国际市场非常畅销,这种药是由混合了古柯树叶的波尔多葡萄酒制成。彭伯顿的可口可乐就是仿照这种药物饮料而来。为什么不呢?这种药物饮料实际上是一种带可卡因成分的葡萄酒,习惯了这种味道的消费者对其趋之若鹜。众多大牌名人认为该饮料有滋补复元之功效,其中包括美国总统尤里西斯•辛普森•格兰特和罗马教皇利奥十三世。

    为钱所困的彭伯顿看到了商机,认为仿制这款热门饮料一定是个不错的生意。而他真就这么做了,1885年,他开始售卖自己的饮料品牌:法国古柯葡萄酒(French Wine of Coca)。但是问题是,当时的清教徒呼吁禁酒,导致亚特兰大全城推行禁酒令,于是彭伯顿不得不将葡萄酒换成汽水。于是在1886年,就有了这种无酒精饮料可口可乐。

    换成汽水不仅仅是应对禁酒令的权宜之计,这也让彭伯顿得以将约80%的产品生产外包出去。冷饮店的经营者们需要做的,仅仅是按一定比例将水兑入彭伯顿制成的饮料(至少五盎司水兑一盎司糖浆)。如此一来,彭伯顿出售的就只是黑色的浓缩糖浆,从而可以节省大笔运输费用。当然,冷饮店冰柜里的水就是自来水。

    1899年,亚特兰大药剂师艾萨•钱德勒与可口可乐签订了首份装瓶授权合同,并接管公司,之后沿用了这种经营模式。钱德勒开始并不同意采用这种分销模式,因为当时大多数装瓶业务很不成熟,但是他后来认识到,装瓶分销可以让产品深入远离市中心的农村市场。这种经营模式更大的好处在于:位于小城镇的独立企业主们自掏腰包助力市场扩张。装瓶公司们垫款购买机器,支付包装、市政用水以及卡车和轮胎的费用,可口可乐的糖浆也由此迅速渗透到全国各地的商业大动脉。

    然而,可口可乐的外包战略并没有就此止步。在供应方面,可口可乐还尽量避免持有工厂和厂房。比如,该公司既没有在加勒比海拥有糖种植园,或在中西部持有高果糖玉米糖浆的湿磨厂,也没有在东南部持有脱咖啡因的设施。相反,公司依赖大量独立的企业,如孟山都化学公司(Monsanto Chemical Company)、嘉吉公司(Cargill)、好时公司(Hershey Chocolate Company)等等,来对成品饮料中的关键成分进行采掘、加工和提炼。总之,可口可乐不喜欢垂直的业务整合,而是作为某种商品经纪人,通过在独立经营的生产商和分销商之间传输材料来赚钱。

    From the very beginning, Coca-Cola had a drug problem.

    The brand’s founder, Atlanta pharmacist John Stith Pemberton, was addicted to morphine, a narcotic many suspected Pemberton began using after suffering a series of debilitating wounds while defending the city of Columbus, Georgia, during the Civil War. By the 1880s, Pemberton was not well, and he was also hurting financially. In 1872, Pemberton filed for bankruptcy and a few years later watched helplessly when two fires ravaged his Atlanta business. In 1886, he had finally clawed his way out of debt but was still strapped for cash.

    That was the year Pemberton introduced Atlanta to Coca-Cola. Pemberton patterned his drink after a French patent medicine called Vin Mariani, a Bordeaux wine mixed with coca leaves, which had become quite popular in international markets by the end of the 1870s, and why not? Here was a drink that was essentially cocaine-laced wine, inducing quite a buzz for the habitual consumer. All sorts of luminaries testified to its restorative properties, including U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and Pope Leo XIII.

    Cash-poor Pemberton believed it made smart business sense to create a knockoff of this popular beverage, which is exactly what he did, selling his own French Wine of Coca in 1885. The problem was, Protestant clamoring for prohibition led to citywide restrictions on alcohol consumption in Atlanta, forcing Pemberton to replace the wine with carbonated water. Thus, Coca-Cola became a kind of temperance drink in 1886.

    The decision to switch to water was more than just an expedient solution to a prohibition problem: it allowed Pemberton to outsource roughly 80% of his product’s volume onto others. That’s because it was soda fountain operators who mixed the water—at least five ounces per one ounce of syrup—into Pemberton’s finished beverages. All Pemberton sold was a dark, syrupy concentrate, which allowed him to save enormous amounts of money on transportation costs. Of course, the soda fountain water ultimately came from the municipal tap.

    This model continued under Pemberton’s successor, Atlanta pharmacist Asa Candler, who signed the first bottling franchise contracts for Coca-Cola in 1899. Initially hesitant to approve this distribution method—considering the rudimentary nature of most bottling operations at the time—Candler came to see that bottling enabled Coke to reach rural markets far removed from city centers. What made the deal even sweeter was the fact that independent businessmen in small towns covered the tab for this expansion. Bottlers fronted the capital to buy the machinery, packaging, and municipal water, as well as the trucks and tires that spread Coke’s syrup through the nation’s commercial arteries.

    But Coke’s outsourcing strategy didn’t stop there. On the supply side, Coke also shunned ownership of factories and plants. The company did not own sugar plantations in the Caribbean, high-fructose corn syrup wet mills in the Midwest, or decaffeination facilities in the Southeast. Rather, the company relied on a host of independent businesses—the Monsanto Chemical Company, Cargill, Hershey Chocolate Company, among many others—to mine, process, and refine the critical ingredients that went into its finished beverages. In short, Coke was averse to vertical business integration, and instead acted as a kind of commodity broker, making money by transferring materials from independently owned producers and distributors.

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