Coca-Cola has confirmed it is in "regular discussions" about enhancing its presence in Ireland but remained tight-lipped about reports it is looking to create a dairy plant in Cork.
A report in the Irish Farmers Journal said the drinks giant had visited Teagasc in Moorepark near Fermoy and the University of Limerick (UL) in recent times, while also engaging with the IDA, with the view to establishing a dairy processing facility in Cork.
When contacted, Coca-Cola did not confirm or deny the report.
As a long-standing and significant investor in Ireland, Coca-Cola has regular discussions with state agencies and partners to discuss different areas of our business including our ongoing evolution to become a total beverage company.
"The media reports regarding future investments in Ireland are purely speculative," the company said in a statement.
The maker of the iconic and ubiquitous soft drink has been looking to diversify its offering in recent years, launching a flavoured milk drink called Fairlife five years ago.
Coca-Cola has been looking to capitalise on so-called healthier drinks as sugar taxes are introduced in more and more countries throughout the world. President and chief executive James Quincey has made it a strategic priority for Coca-Cola to move beyond being a “total beverage company”, with signs it had been paying off last year.
However, in February, a lacklustre forecast jolted investors as the firm warned of currency pressures and weakening consumer appetite, as well as trade and geopolitical upheaval. Fairlife has not been introduced in Europe.
The Irish Farmers Association’s (IFA) national liquid milk chairman John Finn said any development which can add extra value to more fresh milk and grow the market has to be welcomed.
“It would have to ensure a fair share of this value is passed back to farmers, rather than create further competition that adds to downward pressure for the primary producer,” Mr Finn said.
However, he cautioned: “Farmers would have to think long and hard about making a direct supply commitment to a private milk purchaser in which, unlike their co-ops, they have neither a stake, nor any control.”