Coke's Recession Boomlet

"New" markets in India and China and an old playbook are offsetting sluggish U.S. sales

RYAN PYLE

A Coke kiosk tempts passersby in Shanghai's Xujiahui shopping district.

The global economy hasn't looked this bleak since the Great Depression. So things must be looking up for the Coca-Cola Co. For the first full year after the 1929 crash, Coke announced record profits and 3% sales growth. TIME called it "perhaps the most remarkable 1930 statement yet to appear." Almost eight decades later, Coke posted sales growth of 3% for the first half of 2009.

When consumers can't splash out on pricey items like new cars or even new clothes, they resort to cheaper pleasures, like a cold drink. That logic remains simple, even as Coke's business has grown far...

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