This Black family-owned Coca-Cola bottler serves over 21 million consumers across Florida

BY Preta Peace Namasaba May 30, 2024 7:08 AM EDT
Coca-Cola Florida.

With over $1.2 billion in revenue, Coca-Cola Beverages Florida (Coke Florida) is one of the largest Black-owned businesses in the United States. The family-owned enterprise covers over 21 million consumers across 47 Florida counties, and it merchandises over 600 products from the Coca-Cola Company and other partner companies. It employs 5,000 people and is the third-largest privately held and the sixth-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States.

Founded in 2015 by Troy Taylor, Coca-Cola Florida has achieved remarkable success in less than a decade.

“As a Black owner of this business, it means a lot to the black community. My story is an American story. This is what we do in America. We’re a country of immigrants who came here and were able to get involved in this grand experiment called America and grow it. That’s part of our American uniqueness if you will,” Taylor said about what it means to be a thriving Black business.

Taylor learned the values – family, community, and hard work – that drive his business success young. He lost his father in an accident at seven years old and grew up living next door to his grandparents in a small Louisianan town. His maternal grandfather, though not educated was a hardworking man who served as a father figure and showed him the ropes. Taylor got the inclination to be an entrepreneur from people on both sides of his family who were all involved in small businesses.

He accepted a basketball scholarship at Marshall University in West Virginia, where he graduated with finance and business law degrees. Taylor held several senior-level positions at J.P. Morgan, Accenture, and BBVA Compass. During his 20 years in banking and consulting, he learned everything he needed to know about running a business. He left banking in search of drink bottling opportunities, working as a consultant to CCE before they sold the North American operations to Coke. Taylor gained experience and insight into the business and looked at several opportunities to get into the system over the years.

“I was part of a team that focused on franchisees and suppliers mainly in the Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, and Burger King systems, among others.  That experience was my first taste of the Coke system and the very best time I had in banking.  When I started working with Coke bottlers, I immediately knew that I wanted to be one, and I’ve been on this journey to join the Coke system ever since,” Taylor explained how he got into the bottling business.

When Bacardi sold its Coca-Cola bottling franchise in Puerto Rico to a South Florida group headed by Carlos de la Cruz in 1995, Taylor was along for the ride. He realized that he no longer wanted to consult with bottlers and distributors and wanted to be one on the return trip from that transaction. He confided his ambitions of becoming a Coke bottler to De la Cruz who told him to be patient. Taylor opened his investment advisory firm in 2002 and served as a consultant to Coke one of its largest independent bottlers in the world. This experience elevated his knowledge about the beverage distribution sector and increased his Rolodex of contacts.

Twenty years after conceiving his dream, Taylor finally made it a reality.

He started Coca-Cola Beverages Florida with a staff of ten and virtually no income. The company sold about 110 million cases a year in just two years of operation. Taylor has been investing in and growing the business and currently owns all four bottling plants in the state.  The company operates 18 sales and distribution centers and delivers Coca-Cola products to retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, convenience and grocery stores, and stadiums across the entire peninsula of Florida. Its exclusive territory covers over 21 million consumers across 47 Florida counties and merchandises over 600 products of The Coca-Cola Company and other partner companies.

Through his business, Taylor is giving back to the community. Coke Florida delivers $14 billion in annual economic impact to the state each year. It employs over 5, 000 people and hires local vendors, contractors, suppliers, and service providers to fuel its growth and day-to-day operations. In partnership with the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, the company established the Coke Florida Refreshing Minds Scholarship to cover tuition and most fees for 250 economically disadvantaged students to attend Florida public universities, colleges, and technical/vocational schools.

A testament to Taylor’s leadership acumen, Coke Florida has been awarded US Best Managed Company three times in a row.