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Monday 07 April, 2014

Coca-Cola celebrates 25th anniversary Antwerp site with € 1 million investment in new Visitors Center

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Today, the new Coca-Cola Visitors Center has been officially opened by Kris Peeters, Minister-President of the Flanders Region and John F. Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. With its interactive and digital concept, the new Visitors Center seeks to inspire young people to build a bright future. Already firmly embedded in Flanders, this 1 million investment consolidates Coca-Cola Enterprises’ local commitment while also marking the 25th anniversary of the company’s production facility in Wilrijk.

Coca-Cola started its bottling activities in the province of Antwerp some 65 years ago. This year, the company’s production plant in Wilrijk is celebrating its 25th anniversary, amongst others with a completely revamped Visitors Center aiming to attract some 25,000 visitors a year. More than ever, the emphasis is placed on the younger generation. By speaking their language, Coca-Cola wants to inspire them and give them every opportunity to succeed.

Inge Polspoel, Visitors Center Manager, Coca-Cola Enterprises: “The Visitors Center introduces youngsters to the world behind the brand. They can take a peep behind the scenes of our high-tech production and distribution system but at the same time we’re challenging them to contribute ideas towards a sustainable future. Coca-Cola likes to take the initiative when it comes to making a genuine difference in our community. When young people have a more in-depth understanding of the activities in a company like Coca-Cola, they are better able to explore the possibilities and ultimately make choices. Hence the digital and interactive character of the Visitors Center: we want youngsters to experience the full range of possibilities firsthand.”

Young visitors are taken on a digital tour of the ingredients of the various beverages and all aspects of product innovation, they get a better idea of the job opportunities at Coca-Cola Enterprises, they learn more about recycling and gain a better understanding of current technologies. The content of the Visitors Center is entirely geared towards the world of young people and translated into a high school setting with 5 interactive modules (gymnasium, communications class, innovation lab, sustainability wall and talent corner). Finally, a visit to the production plant extends their understanding of the current technology.

“It's been 65 years since Coca-Cola opened its bottling plant in Antwerp. And the production center in Wilrijk has been around for 25 years, too. But despite the company's global fame, Coca-Cola understands better than anyone else that a local presence is the key to success. Coca-Cola embeds Enterprises itself locally through production and distribution centers like those in Antwerp, and through innovation centers like the one in Anderlecht. And the company makes sure to involve the younger generation: the recently renovated Visitors Center gives them a peek behind the scenes, so they understand how the company works and the career opportunities open to them," says Minister President Peeters.

Belief in youngsters

In celebration of the grand reopening of the Visitors Center for youngsters, Coca-Cola Enterprises joined forces with Let’s Go Urban to elaborate a development trajectory for five youngsters from Antwerp: five young ‘dreamers’ will be coached by five inspirational ‘believers’ who will bring them one step closer to realising their big dream. In the coming months, this project will see Coca-Cola Enterprises invest in the dreams of young people by taking them seriously, valuing their input, recognising their talent and giving them perspective. Five believers – Sihame El Kaouakibi, founder and director of youth organisation Let’s Go Urban; John Brock, CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises; Hans Similon, ‘Mobile Vikings’ evangelist; Catalina Daniëls, CEO of the Special Olympics European Games 2014 and Joeri Van den Bergh, co-founder and generation Y expert of InSites Consulting – have agreed to share their knowledge, experience and network with the dreamers, providing them with the tools to turn their dream into an actual project.

Coca-Cola Enterprises is a locally embedded and inclusive company that gives opportunities to young people

Coca-Cola may be a global brand but it is first and foremost a local company. Well over 70% of all drinks the brand sells on the Belgian market are also manufactured here, in the production plant in Wilrijk that’s celebrating its 25th anniversary. Over the last 15 years, Coca-Cola Enterprises has invested € 120 million in the Wilrijk site. The revamped Visitors Center is a great way of embedding the company even further in the local community.

In addition, the company has an unwavering commitment to young people as illustrated by numerous initiatives: workshops at universities, apprenticeships and summer jobs at the various sites. The Mission Olympics programme, soon to be rebranded Olympic moves, introduces 22,000 young people to a wide variety of Olympic disciplines. Coca-Cola Enterprises has established its own professional network for young people to exchange their experiences and Coca-Cola has launched a ‘young graduates’ programme giving fresh graduates the opportunity to try their hand at different jobs within the company to help them discover their talents. At the end of this two-year period, most are offered a permanent contract.

In addition, Coca-Cola is a company for everyone. That is why, for a quarter of a century, Coca-Cola has been an active partner of the Special OIympics in Belgium. This year Antwerp is hosting the European Special Olympics and Coca-Cola has teamed up with the organisers to turn this event into a huge success.

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