The Georgia-based beverage giant said its Chinese drinks business grew 19 per cent in 2008, and had grown 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2009, compared to only two per cent globally.
The company has about half of the Chinese carbonated drinks market and in response committed to investing $2bn over the next three years – more than double its investment in the Sino peninsula over the past 30 years.
Coca-Cola China president, Doug Jackson, noted China had overtaken Mexico to become its third biggest market although the average Chinese person consumes only 25 bottles per year, compared to more than 500 in the US.
"China has the potential to become our largest market in the world," Jackson said.
The latest additions to Coke’s Chinese empire, in the central Jiangxi province Xinjiang province in the far west, mean Coke now has 40 bottling plants in China.
The new plants add about 800 employees to Coke’s 30,000-strong Chinese workforce and create an additional 3000 indirect jobs servicing the estimated 60 million consumers in the two regions.
Coke in March tried to expand its non-carbonated business in China recently by offering $2.4bn to acquire Huiyuan Juice but the Chinese government ruled against the move. Coke has said it will instead focus on developing its juice brand, Minute Maid.
Huiyuan possesses more than 40 per cent of China’s juice market.
Coke has been increasing its presence in China with actions such as sponsoring the Olympic Torch Relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, establishing a $90 million research facility in Shanghai and donating $12 million to rebuild schools after the earthquake in Sichuan Province last year.