• South Pacific vice president for The Coca Cola Company, Rob Priest.
    South Pacific vice president for The Coca Cola Company, Rob Priest.

Each issue of Food & Drink Business we ask an industry leader five questions about their working life. In our April 2022 edition we talked to the South Pacific vice president for The Coca-Cola Comapny, Rob Priest. 

1 Tell us about your current role.

As Vice President of South Pacific, I lead The Coca-Cola Company’s operations in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

We have a large portfolio of leading brands across the region, including Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Powerade and many more.

My role is very much focused on working closely with our customers and bottling partner, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP), to bring those brands to market in the right way.

It’s an incredibly diverse role, and I can definitely admit that every day is different – from innovating our portfolio, planning and executing huge brand campaigns, to educating our customers and consumers on our sustainability progress.

2 What has been your greatest achievement to date?

I’ve been with the Coke System for a long time, and previously held a leadership role at our bottling partner Coca-Cola Amatil (CCEP).

The achievement I’m most proud of is during that time is the majority of our sales general manager positions were filled by women, which completely broke the industry norm.

I know without a doubt that my experience working for our bottling partner shaped my career and emphasised the great opportunities available across the Coca-Cola system.

We’re very focused on providing development opportunities for our people and promoting great talent into leadership roles.

3 What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn?

I don’t tend to look at experiences as mistakes,

I like to think of them as opportunities that help me think differently about how to do things next time.

I have learnt that driving change in personnel too quickly is not the right way to bring about change or deliver results.

When I started this role, I really took the time to ask the right questions and get to know my team.

I strive to lead in an informal, agile and approachable way, giving each team member the space they need to grow and feel empowered, which brings me a lot of fulfillment.

4 What would you tell your 25-year-old self?

If I was to give my 25-year-old self some sage advice it would be this: be patient. The saying “life is a marathon” is absolutely true, however, I like to think of it as a modern-day marathon where we are on the cusp of breaking the two-hour barrier.

5 What is one goal you still want to achieve?

We have a strong focus on creating a sustainable business and a better-shared future and Ihave two goals that I want to see us deliver on – and hopefully, exceed.

The first is our global World Without Waste goal of zero waste by 2030. We have made significant progress and are committed to playing a leading role, but there is a lot more to do and that really motivates me.

The second is to meet our target to reduce sugar across our portfolio sales by 20 per cent as part of the beverage industry sugar reduction pledge.

We are doing this across our portfolio and our continued investment in Coca-Cola No Sugar has seen significant growth in the category.

Packaging News

In the first year of PKN’s Women in Packaging Awards programme, industry has stepped up with meaning. The response has been phenomenal, and the judges had their work cut out for them selecting the finalists from a competitive field of high-calibre nominees.

At The Hive Awards in Sydney today, the Best Packaging category was won by Don Smallgoods, part of George Weston Foods, for its resealable flow wrap pack for sandwich fillers and other smallgoods. This innovative packaging is a departure from the conventional thermoformed packs and addresses consumer demands for better functionality, sustainability, and product visibility.

Applications for the 2024 APCO Annual Awards are now open, and are open to all of industry to apply.