Reefer jobs disappearing, trucks to be sold in Odwalla closing

More than 200 refrigerated driver jobs are expected to disappear with the decision by The Coca-Cola Company to end the production and sale of its Odwalla line of juices and smoothies.

According to multiple press reports, Odwalla beverages were created in the early 1980s, and bought by The Coca-Cola Company in 2001. Coca-Cola and its franchisees will stop deliveries to stores by the end of this month and bring back unsold inventory by the end of August.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, a spokeswoman for the company said it would be eliminating about 300 jobs with the closure. It also said about 230 refrigerated trucks will be sold. 

Those trucks, in addition to carrying Odwalla products, also carried Simply orange juice and Fairlife milk. The Journal report said those products will not be discontinued and will be transported by other means. 

The Coca-Cola spokeswoman quoted by the Journal said the brand has “endured ongoing financial challenges.”

It appears Odwalla fell victim to an ongoing effort at Coca-Cola to eliminate what CEO James Quincy has described as “zombie” products. In an earnings call early last year, he said the company had “eliminated over 700 underperforming zombie SKUs.” (An SKU is a stock keeping unit but also is a term for identifying a particular product in retail.)

“By finding ways like this to reduce complexity we ensure that our system sales force is focused,” Quincy said on the fourth quarter 2018 earnings call, which took place in February 2019. “Our supply chain is efficient and our latest innovations get more space and visibility at the point-of-sale.”

“We couldn’t make it work, we couldn’t figure out the cost-effectiveness of it,” the spokeswoman said, according to the Journal. “It really is the result of consumers changing what they want so rapidly. By freeing up those assets, we can reinvest those costs in what consumers want today.”

Odwalla was bought by Coca Cola in 2001 from its founder for $181 million and the assumption of $5 million in debt.

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