We gathered together outside the gates of Coca Cola Enterprises UK to be met by Rachel, their Education Centre Manager for the Milton Keynes plant.
They take safety and security very seriously, so before we even went through the gates, we had an introductory health and safety talk.
As we walked across grounds to the main building, Rachel pointed out the silo (that receives the deliveries of sugar) and the smaller ones for the carbon dioxide and the nitrogen gases.
Right next door is Rexam, who manufacture the aluminium cans (Coca Cola takes 70% of their output). The two factories are physically linked; a conveyor belt brings cans directly from Rexam to Coca Cola Enterprises, so visitors can see the "Just in Time" in a real life situation.
There is a presentation in their education room. Rachel talks about pricing and promotional pricing; packaging; markets, marketing and market share; advertising and branding (for example, diet coke used to be targeted at women and that is why the packaging is silver, whereas coke zero was targeted at males and has dark packaging). We learn a bit about global trading, such as the slight differences in recipes to cater for local tastes (South America's syrup is sweeter than the UK, for example). The syrups are made in Ireland and arrive in two halves. The syrup is made in two parts so that nobody knows the whole recipe.
We also participated in a group business studies exercise and handled some samples (such as a preform bottle)
We were given headphones and hairnets before being taken onto a viewing platform looking down at part of their factory floor/production line, where we can also appreciate the impressive speed and scale of the operation. Through the earphones, Rachel gave us lots of production information, such as it takes 5 seconds to get from a plastic preform to a full, labelled and capped bottle.
Coca Cola also use the opportunity to showcase their environmental credentials. Overall the tour is insightful and they are generous with their information.
Due to health and safety, this tour is only available to students aged 12yrs+ on the day of the visit because the Education Centre is sited within a fully operational industrial building. The Education Centre is wheelchair accessible, however the viewing platform is not. However, it is possible to see the production line from the window of the Education Centre.
The Education Centre Manager, Rachel, leads the sessions and is a former business studies and economics teacher. Her delivery was confident and pitched at an appropriate level.
We took 16 children aged between 12 and 15 and 5 adults on a general business overview tour, specifically to support GCSE Business Studies. It is possible to request a specific focus (eg Marketing, Enterprise, ICT, Design & Technology, Manufacturing, or Science) and to tailor to a certain degree. The tour would also be interesting in it's own right, as Coca Cola is such a recognised brand in modern culture. The visit is provided free of charge and lasts 2hrs. You are provided with a free drink (in our case, capri sun or sparkling water). There is no photography allowed apart from inside the Education Centre.
(This is NOT a sponsored post.)