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Alex -

I just got back, along with an 8 ounce glass bottle of Coke and a bottle of Dasani.

The first third of the meeting contained business matters and an explanation as to the slowdown. We all know that 4 of Coke's 6 top markets are experiencing economic problem, so there were no surprises.

The other two thirds of the meeting involved the question portion - the part I find to be most interesting. Below are a few selected things from that session.

Coke had already tried getting into the water business in the US in the past, but the product did not travel beyond Boston.

The formula for Coke does not change with the location. However, the sweetener used does change (I believe that that was discussed here a while back). Fanta's formula, however, does change with the location.

A great question was, "If Coke's formula is such a secret, how can it be shipped all over the world without it getting stolen." The answer was, "That is also a secret." Perhaps the biggest laugh of the morning.

Coke is the #1 soft drink in China. There are 27 bottling facilities there with distribtion to 200 cities - 200 more to follow.

Dasani is currently being distributed in Charlotte and full distribution of the product will occur by the end of the year.

I asked a question about Coke's future with their Dividend Reinvestment Program and if they would consider removing the $1 fee for automatic purchases. I spoke with Susan Shaw following the meeting about this. I was told that the $1 charge helps them reclaim a little of the cost of the program. She assured me that she would check with FCTC on the costs for receiving payments in this manner. She also alluded to the fact that they may consider a direct purchase option in the future, to my great horror. I will be following up with her on the $1 charge, and will strongly lobby against a direct purchase option.

Finally, I remember a 15 year old girl from last year, who complained that as a lifeguard during the summer, had to sit under a Coke umbrella. Her problem was that the umbrella was worn and tattered, and wondered if it could be replaced. She returned this year to thank Coke for following up with her and actually seeing that all of the umbrellas were replaced. As I've said in the past, a company's response in a matter even as minor as this tells me much about them, and I'll continue to DRiP (assuming no fees) over the next 20 years.

Oh yeah, I also brought home Warren Buffett's autograph.

Cheers -

george
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