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‘Gene genie’: Coke CTO predicts personalized beverages using genomics

By Ben Bouckley+

05-Nov-2013

Coca-Cola Company chief technology officer, Guy Wollaert, believes that beverages tailored to our individual genetic makeup will be available in the near future.

Speaking to India news outlet Live Mint, in a visit to the country last week as Coke opened its 58th bottling plant in the country, Wollaert discussed innovations including polymer science and water sustainability.

“Technology in the physical space is all about atoms, molecules, genomics. The living and the inert world, the physical world,” Wollaert said.

“And there we do a huge amount of work leveraging technology for packaging – whether that is light-weighting, polymer science to do that, or have bio-based packaging made from plants rather than fossil fuels. We’re changing the entire industry in that space,” he added.

“And soon, looking ahead, it’s not going to be that far out that we will talk about personalized beverages based on people’s personal genes.”

'Replenish me in a certain way'

For $99 today you can know how your body is made and use devices that track your physical movement, or inactivity, Wollaert explained, in the video below.

“You can, soon, track the hydration in your body – ‘I’m hydrated, dehydrated – I need to replenish, and I want to be replenished in a certain way.”

“That’s going to come more and more in the way of personalization.”

Wollaert was also asked what Coke was doing to become water positive.

“We live in a world that is a circle. Nothing comes in and nothing comes out – apart from solar power. So we leverage solar power – that is for free,” he said.

“But in water – power [other sources], packaging materials, we have to think in closed loop systems. I’m very proud to say that in water we are already there, in India.”

‘We have all the water proof points’

Referencing Coke’s 2020 target to be water neutral, giving back what it takes in, he stress that this did not apply directly to its operations, but through partnerships with NGOs and other groups.

“Frankly speaking, there’s no other company I know of that has made that public commitment and has so many programmes in so many countries around the world,” Wollaert said, referencing 300 Coke programs worldwide linked to water sustainability.

“The biggest task we have at the moment is making that known to the wider world – our leadership position [on water] and the actions we have taken,” he added.

“We have all the proof points and tools to talk about this confidently. From a technology point of view, we are ready. Whenever the consumer is ready, we are ready.”

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