Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Bottling expands territory

Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated announced Thursday it is expanding its franchise territory to include two Tennessee cities, as part of an agreement with the Coca-Cola Co.

The move is part of a previously announced letter of intent involving Coca-Cola, which supplies bottlers with the concentrate used to flavor soda, and independent bottlers. In 2010, supplier Coca-Cola purchased the North American operations of bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. Coca-Cola is now selling those territories to independent bottlers.

The Charlotte-based bottler signed an agreement to expand into Morristown and Johnson City, Tenn., according to Thursday's announcement. The transaction is expected to close at the end of May.

"We believe that the refranchising of these territories of the Coca-Cola system will position us to deliver increased value for our customers, shareowners and employees,” Coca-Cola Consolidated Chairman and CEO J. Frank Harrison III said in a statement.

The bottler is working toward another agreement with Coca-Cola for additional territories, including Knoxville, Cleveland and Cookeville, Tenn; Louisville, Lexington, Paducah and Pikeville, Ky.; and Evansville, Ill. The Charlotte-based bottler is the nation's largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, with 6,500 employees in 11 states.