There may be a diet soda shortage looming.
Production and exports for Coca-Cola‘s suppliers of artificial sweeteners have officially been delayed due to the spread of coronavirus in China, the soda brand disclosed on Monday, Feb. 24 as part of its annual report.
“We have initiated contingency supply plans and do not foresee a short-term impact due to these delays,” Coca-Cola wrote in the filing. “However, we may see tighter supplies of some of these ingredients in the longer term should production or export operations in China deteriorate.”
The company’s primary sugar alternatives, which are used in their diet and zero-sugar drinks, contain aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, saccharin, cyclamate, and steviol glycosides. At least one of those ingredients — sucralose, which is better known to consumers as Splenda — is considered a “critical raw material” sourced from suppliers in the U.S. and China. It’s used in Diet Coke as well as other Coca-Cola products such as Powerade Zero.
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In the report, the company did not specify which sweeteners have been affected by the spread of coronavirus, though they did release a statement outlining the expected impact from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. The company explained in the press release that China is the third-largest market in the world for Coca-Cola in terms of unit case volume, and predicted that its unit case volume may decline by 2- to 3-points, while its organic revenue may drop by 1- to 2- points, and its first-quarter earnings-per-share by 1- to 2-cents.
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They also extended their deepest sympathies to those impacted by the virus and affirmed that they are donating to organizations working to contain the virus as well as taking precautionary measures to protect employees in China, though they did not disclose further information on these donations.
“The safety and health of the company’s associates remains a high priority. The company has implemented precautionary measures to protect employees in China, which includes providing face masks and hand sanitizers; installing temperature screening in offices and manufacturing facilities; and setting up health monitoring mechanisms across the Coca-Cola system in China,” the statement reads.
Coca-Cola did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
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Coca-Cola has reiterated that they don’t foresee longer-term impacts on production unless the coronavirus epidemic continues to grow. While the outbreak’s spread has slowed in China, experts have warned against assuming the worst is over.
Health officials on Tuesday, Feb. 25 urged Americans to start preparing for the likelihood that coronavirus will spread in the U.S. as the number of cases continues to rise nationally and in countries outside of China.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control said that a bigger outbreak in the U.S. is imminent.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. She continued, “We are asking the American public to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad.”
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