The launch was held in co-ordination with its Palestinian franchisee National Beverage Company (NBC), which currently employs a team of over 600 employees at its four factories in Ramallah, Tulkarem, Jericho and Gaza.
The new bottling facility immediately creates 120 direct jobs in Gaza, while indirectly supporting more than 1,200 Palestinians through a local value-chain of suppliers, distributors and retailers, said a statement from the company.
Accredited with international quality standards and following Coca-Cola’s robust global certifications, the Gaza bottling facility and distribution centre spans over 15,000 sq m and contains a single bottling line that is capable of filling up to 36,000 returnable glass bottles per hour with sparkling beverages, it said.
The Coca-Cola beverages produced in the new bottling plant will be distributed in Gazan communities through 18 branded trucks which will move from city-to-city and from village-to-village, it added.
Following a planned future expansion within the next three years, the Gaza plant will eventually employ 270 people, bringing the total number of direct Palestinian jobs across the West Bank and Gaza to more than 750, and the total number of indirect job opportunities to more than 7,500, said a statement.
The Coca-Cola Foundation, NBC and Mercy Corps, the international development organisation, also announced a new $1.3 million charitable initiative designed to address two regional development challenges – ensuring access to clean drinking water and creating employment opportunities for Palestinian youth.
The ‘Empowering Sustainable Communities in Gaza’ initiative is aimed at supporting over 30,000 Palestinian beneficiaries within three years.
The charitable initiative includes plans to construct a desalination plant near Al Maghazi refugee camp in the centre of Gaza that will provide a sustainable water source to a population of more than 24,000 registered refugees, it said.
NBC is the third largest Palestinian employer and the fifth largest Palestinian investor with over 600 direct employees, and is the largest food and beverage company in the region, having produced sparkling and stills beverage products since 1998, including Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Cappy juice, Arwa and Jericho mineral water.
Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer, Coca-Cola Company, said: “Our company and NBC share great pride in having been part of the fabric of Palestinian communities for almost 18 years, and our new plant shows our ongoing commitment to investing and supporting progress in communities around the world.”
“We believe that strong businesses can help enable strong communities, and we are delighted to welcome new Gazan employees, distributors and retailers to our Coca-Cola system, while jointly undertaking important work with NBC and Mercy Corps that we believe can have a positive and lasting impact for years to come,” he said.
Zahi Khouri, founder and chairman of NBC, said: “Ever since our company first began operations, we have been firmly committed to building a successful Palestinian business that can create employment opportunities, support the national economy and demonstrate the great capabilities of our region while serving products of the very highest quality.”
“The opening of our first Gaza plant is an important milestone in this journey and provides great evidence of the tremendous commercial opportunity that exists,” he said.
Imad Hindi, general manager of NBC, said: “Our company has worked with partners to expand its supply chain from city-to-city and village to village in the West Bank, with a long-term hope and clear ambition to operating in Gaza.”
“This new productive operation will eventually create thousands of direct and indirect job opportunities to address unemployment challenges and make a tangible contribution to the Gazan economy,” he added.