Bunhill: Coke's latest is a real sparkler

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The Independent Online
THE NEW president of Coca-Cola Great Britain, if you pardon the pun, is a refreshing change. Not only has the top job gone to a woman, Penny Hughes, but she is young as well - only 33. She is the only woman divisional head at Coke, and the youngest.

Last week, we shared a glass of Coca-Cola's first big launch in 10 years. Called Tab Clear, it looks like sparkling mineral water and tastes like a mellower version of Diet Coke.

For Hughes, it is the biggest test since she took charge six months ago. Tall, slim, attractive (I know, I would never say that about a man but I can't help myself) she is a product of Birkenhead High, Sheffield University and the Milk Marketing Board, where she was involved in finding new ways of selling milk.

She joined Coke nine years ago and now sounds straight out of the Atlanta management school, complete with the accent. 'We've got Americans in the office here and I suppose our internal language is more American,' she apologises.

When I ventured to suggest that Tab Clear might be competing against Diet Coke, her eyes flashed, but only momentarily. 'No, because it's a new-style drink.' Too many women, she says, don't have her confidence. 'They believe there is a ceiling put up by men beyond which they cannot go. They should put up their own ceiling and make that their goal.'

She is married - to David, 'who works for Shell' - lives in Twickenham and gets a 'tremendous kick from going into pubs and restaurants and listening to people ordering the world's number one brand'. Sure beats milk.

(Photograph omitted)