CPC director general Dupe Atoki held a press briefing yesterday to reveal the findings of an investigation into alleged violations of product quality standards by the Nigerian Bottling Company (part of Coca-Cola Hellenic and Coke’s sole franchisee in Nigeria) and Coca-Cola Nigeria.
Noting Coca-Cola’s popularity in Nigeria, Atoki said the firm sold 3bn+ bottles there in 2013. “As the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria accounts for a large portion of the Coca-Cola Company’s market share.
“The Council is determined to ensure that all manufacturers of products and providers of services meet international best practices. Nigeria should not be a dumping ground for substandard products,” she added.
Short-filled Sprite cans, rusty bottle tops…
The CPC works under the aegis of Nigeria’s 2004 Consumer Protection Act and pursued a September 6 2013 consumer complaint over two half empty (short filled) cans of Sprite.
The Council set up a panel that invited both Nigerian Bottling Company (Coke’s sole franchisee in Nigeria) and Coca-Cola Nigeria to respond, make representations and provide more information.
“The council had – prior to this complaint – been inundated with similar situations and other complaints, such as – rusty bottle tops, rusty cans and foreign particles in beverage products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under license of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited,” Atoki said.
After five hearings between September 2013-February 2014, the Council concluded that the cans of Sprite produced by NBC were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers.
Moreover, the Coca-Cola Hellenic bottler did not have detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products or a grievance resolution policy – including compensation – to cover instances where consumers incur physical injury from consumption.
Council orders ‘far-reaching’ system change
The CPC also found that NBC’s supply chain management did not extend to mainstream retailers in Nigeria and the firm’s traceability policy was also deficient.
“In view of all these, the Council made far-reaching recommendations for system change in Niegerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria,” Atoki said.
The Council has issued an order stating that the soft drinks giant and its licensee: (1) subject manufacturing processes to Council’s inspection for 12 months to ensure safety and regulatory compliance (2) review their grievance resolution policy.
Both companies must also send the Council a shelf life policy within 90 days and review their supply chain management policy to include retailers, within the same timeframe.
Finally, they are under starter’s orders to review their traceability policy to ensure they can better trace products without relying on purchase information from the consumer.
‘We co-operated fully with investigation’ Coke responds
In a statement sent to BeverageDaily.com, Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca-Cola Nigeria said they co-operated with the CPC investigation and provided information on quality assurance, product handling and the consumer complaints resolution processes “which we have continued to update over the years”.
“It is regrettable that the Council’s conclusions and recommendations do not seem to have acknowledged the information,” they added.
Stressing their desire to work with the Council and other stakeholders to “make any necessary improvement” the companies said they “remain committed to maintaining the highest international quality management and food safety standards and certifications”.
“Because consumers are at the heart of everything we do, both organizations also take a responsive approach towards satisfying our customers and consumers," the firms added.