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Pulling Back the Layers of the Coca-Cola Empire

Ryan Guenette
September 12, 2013

Some 94% of the world's population recognizes the red and white logo of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO).You read that right, 94%. Inter-brand, the world's leading brand consultant, places the value of Coca-Cola's name at $77.8 billion, more than the brand values of, Disney, PepsiCo, Ford, and Starbucks combined. Some 1.8 billion Coke products are consumed daily.An investor would simply be foolish (lowercase) to not be interested in capitalizing on the monumental strength of Coca-Cola.

However, if you logged onto and typed "Coca-Cola" into the search bar at the top right of the page, you will see four major companies beginning with "Coca-Cola" listed on American stock exchanges.

With four separate plays on the value of the Coca-Cola brand, what does each company do and which one is the least likely to fizzle out?

The classic Coke

This company is the classic Coca-Cola, the company most are referring to when they say Coca-Cola. This Coca-Cola owns, licenses, and markets more than 500 non-alcoholic beverage brands in more than 200 countries.In some way or another, Coca-Cola has a role in the sale of every single Coca-Cola branded product in the world.

The largest U.S. bottler

Coca-Cola Bottling (NASDAQ: COKE) produces, markets, and distributes products of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola Bottling is the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the United States.Bottlers pay Coca-Cola for concentrate, which bottlers then use to produce beverage products. As of Dec. 30, 2012, Coca-Cola held a 34.8% interest in Coca-Cola Bottling's outstanding common stock.

A high-growth Latin American play

Coca-Cola FEMSA (NYSE: KOF) is the largest franchise bottler of Coca-Cola trademark beverages in the world. The company operates in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Coca-Cola indirectly owned Series D shares equal to 28.7% of the capital stock of Coca-Cola FEMSA.

Coca-Cola, with a European twist

Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE: CCE) is another bottler of Coca-Cola products, serving a market of 170 million consumers throughout Belgium, France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.In 2010, Coca-Cola acquired Coca-Cola Enterprises' North American territory.

Where Foolish investors should place their money
According to the legendary Warren Buffett, Coca-Cola is the best place to invest. Some 18% of his $89 billion portfolio is devoted to the holding of 400 million shares of Coca-Cola, a clear indication of what Buffett is thinking.

Bill & Melinda's Gates Foundation Trust also shares Buffett's view of Coca-Cola, with 7.7% o