CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You probably wouldn’t have guessed that a Coke bottle could help ramp up testing for the virus across the country, but that’s exactly what’s happening.
Coca-Cola Consolidated, headquartered in Charlotte, is helping manufacture a crucial part of the test kits — saving local governments money and helping people stay healthy.
It’s one of the most recognized brands and one of the most recognized bottles in the world. But how did Coca-Cola end up on the frontlines fighting COVID-19?
“This is definitely the biggest opportunity we’ve had to help in this pandemic,” explains Coca-Cola Consolidated’s Kimberly Kuo.
It started with a random conversation between a Coca-Cola Consolidated employee and someone at a Tennessee lab desperately looking for test tubes for testing kits.
“Our teammate said wow, you should look at what we call in the Coke business a pre-form — a plastic tube that we blow up to make the famous contour bottles and in their original form they look like a perfect plastic test tube.”
Within weeks that moment turned into a new product line for the soft drink giant.
“We are churning out over a million of those a week now to be used in testing kits," Kuo said. "It’s its own line churning out right beside Sprite, Coke on one line, now test tubes on another."
Kuo says this is not a moneymaker for them — they’re making the test tubes for almost nothing and they’re getting regular requests to make more.
“We are actually getting calls every week and looking at how we can ramp up production," she said.
She estimates they’ve already made ten million test tubes.
“It feels so good to be a part of the solution to this pandemic – and it really does take a village," Kuo said. "It is really rewarding to be able to serve your community in that way.”
Coca-Cola Consolidated has also made face shields for healthcare workers and delivered 50,000 airline meals that weren’t being used.