Lessons of the Non-Tech Acquiring Tech Deal Of The Month

March 2023 - Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) agrees to make a strategic investment in Manna


On 16th March 2023, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC), one of the largest non-alcoholic beverage companies (market cap of ca. $10 billion) globally, agreed to make a strategic investment in the Irish drone-delivery company, Manna through its venture capital arm, Coca-Cola HBC Ventures.


Tech – Manna: Manna is a developer of drones for last-mile delivery with the goal of replacing road-based delivery. The aerospace-grade drones are designed to be autonomous and can fly at low altitudes, allowing them to make deliveries quickly and efficiently. The company's drones can deliver a wide range of items, including food, medicine, and other essentials, to customers in suburban and rural areas, which reduces delivery times for retailers and businesses to a fraction of their current times and improves the consumer experience.

Non-Tech – Coca-Cola HBC: Coca-Cola HBC is a leading bottler of the Coca-Cola Company's beverages and has been granted exclusive manufacturing and sales rights for Coca-Cola products in specific regions. Coca-Cola HBC purchases syrup from Coca-Cola and manufactures various beverages, including sparkling soft drinks, energy drinks, water, and juice, which are distributed in its target markets. The company’s geographic market encompasses ~30 countries across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Coca-Cola HBC has divided these territories into established, developing, and emerging markets. The emerging markets account for over 40% of the company's total revenue and ~50% of its total volume.

Note – to see all the other “Techquisition” deals that were announced globally in March 2023, you can access them here.


On 16th March 2023, Coca-Cola HBC entered into a definitive agreement to make a strategic investment of an undisclosed amount in Manna.

The real shareholder value creation for Coca-Cola HBC from this techquisition investment comes in the form of the strategic partnership it has agreed with Manna (see the section below).

Like most other techquisition deals, the market reacted favourably to the investment announcement given the positive outlook associated with the strategic potential of the investment and how it fits with Coca-Cola HBC’s digital solutions business strategy.

Despite challenging market conditions, Coca-Cola HBC’s share price increased by approximately 6.5% from March 15 to March 22 – versus an increase of 3% in the FTSE 100 Index during the same period – implying an addition of net ca. $320 million (which is likely to be higher than the investment amount), due in large part to the strategic partnership that is aligned with the financial investment.

This short-term reward from the market signals a potentially high ROI for Coca-Cola HBC on the investment, assuming it can execute the strategic plan.


Founded in 2018, Manna is a “drone delivery as-a-service" company offering fully autonomous drones with the aim to improve the world by making quick suburban deliveries affordable, green, and safe.

By allowing users to place an order through their app, Manna is leveraging the convenience and ease of mobile technology to make the ordering process simple and accessible. This move comes at a time when consumers increasingly expect fast and efficient service.

Additionally, the real-time tracking of the drone delivery is an important feature that adds to the reliability and transparency of Manna's service by providing customers with up-to-date information on the status of their delivery.

Each Manna Aero drone can make 7 to 8 deliveries per hour at 50 miles/hour (80 km/hour) at a cost of ~10% of a human driver in a car.

The company’s latest drone, the “X-drone,” can carry up to 7.5 pounds (3.5 kg) of cargo in a hold with ~30,000 cubic centimetres of space (~1,800 cubic inches).

Manna’s technology allows for items to be delivered within a 2km radius within three minutes.

The company has already completed 100,000+ delivery flights in Ireland.

The firm is presently undergoing rapid expansion, which has led to a surge in its operational activities.

Indeed, the company is currently fulfilling 1,000+ deliveries per day in highly populated urban markets across Ireland.

In March 2023, Manna announced its plans to expand its operations to mainland Europe by leveraging Coca-Cola HBC’s access to these territories and separately announced its first US trial.

For the US market, Manna has entered a commercial partnership with multinational real-estate development firm Hillwood to conduct trials in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. As a part of the trial, the pair will test drone delivery within a 27,000-acre mixed-use development in the area. However, approvals from the FAA for the trial are pending.

The partnership with Coca-Cola HBC aims to bring business insights to Manna, with the companies planning to work together to identify opportunities for the drone delivery company to grow across Coca-Cola HBC’s territories in a way that should give Manna access to central and eastern European markets over time.

“Coca-Cola is one of the most well-known brands in the world. It was a huge endorsement that they chose us and that they decided to bet on drone delivery.”

- Bobby Healy, Founder & CEO of Manna

Coca-Cola HBC Ventures executes Coca-Cola HBC’s business strategy and invests in start-ups that are relevant to its business in key focus areas including last mile, vending technology and touchless assets, coffee technology and equipment, sustainable packaging and climate.

The partnership with Manna should help Coca-Cola to adapt its route to market with a more sustainable approach and help achieve its pledge to have net zero emissions by 2040.

Source: Coca-Cola HBC Ventures

Coca-Cola HBC's e-commerce channels demonstrate high growth potential, making it one of the company's most dynamic avenues.

These channels comprise two distinct categories – Business-to-Business (B2B) platforms that connect the company with its distributors and customers, and Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) platforms that connect the company with shoppers.

As a company, Coca-Cola HBC considers logistics to be a crucial capability and aims to leverage innovative technologies to facilitate customer connections.

In addition to Manna, Coca-Cola HBC has also made strategic investments in Alfies, a Vienna-based last-mile delivery platform for drinks and groceries that claims to deliver goods within 60 minutes.

Source: Coca-Cola HBC Full Year Results Presentation

Coca-Cola HBC has been ranked as the world’s most sustainable beverage brand by Dow Jones Sustainability Index 2022.

To achieve its “Mission 2025” sustainability commitments and its goal to achieve net zero emissions across the value chain by 2040, the company has moved its entire locally produced portfolio in Switzerland to 100% recycled PET (rPET).

Source: Coca-Cola HBC Integrated Annual Report 2022

In 2021, The company announced its commitment to the “NetZeroby40” initiative – the primary means by which it will manage the principal risk of managing its carbon footprint, to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

Coca-Cola HBC has a significant carbon footprint which is divided into 3 categories:

Scope 1 emissions
– Direct emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHG) from our manufacturing operations, representing 5.4% of the emissions.

Scope 2 emissions
– Indirect emissions resulting from purchased electricity and thermal energy, representing 5.4% of the emissions.

Scope 3 emissions
– Indirect emissions generated either downstream in the use of products such as the use of coolers, and third-party logistics to deliver products, or upstream by its suppliers in ingredients and packaging, representing ~89.2% of the emissions.

Coca-Cola HBC has managed to achieve a 15% reduction in emissions across Scopes 1, 2, and 3 compared to its baseline emissions in 2017.

The company has accelerated the transition of its light fleet in 2022 by introducing 1,000+ green vehicles.

28% of the company’s light fleet is comprised of more environmentally friendly vehicle models resulting in a reduction of ~19,500 tonnes of CO2 compared to the baseline emissions recorded in 2017.

In addition, the heavy fleet has also achieved a reduction of ~20,000 tonnes of emissions during the same period.

The investment in Manna serves as a step to commercialise drone deliveries in Coca-Cola HBC’s territories by reducing its carbon footprint and for Manna to enter new markets and gain marketing and distribution capabilities.

The deal rationale revolves around Coca-Cola HBC’s plan to leverage Manna’s strong technological capabilities in the last mile drone delivery segment which should add significant value to this partnership by contributing towards its sustainability goals.

“Our partnership with Manna Drone Delivery, one of the most innovative drone delivery start-up companies in the world, encapsulates our ambition to deliver our products in new and more sustainable ways.”

- Miles Karemacher, General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC in Ireland, and Northern Ireland


One of the reasons Coca-Cola HBC, and many of its peers, are so interested in the drone delivery market is the growth expected – the drone delivery market is estimated to grow from ca. $200 million in 2022 to $5.5 billion by 2030 (CAGR of 49.1%).

Drone delivery is an innovative transportation medium for parcel service providers and various commercial businesses, and medical centres.

Due to their accelerated delivery time, high accuracy, and minimal human interventions in the supply chain, drones have been the most sought-after logistical methodology in the global supply chain.

The increased demand for these drones is due to the increasing carbon footprint and global warming which are two of the world's biggest challenges at present.

Drone delivery is ideal for reducing carbon emissions through commercial drone-based delivery, specifically for the last-mile delivery (LMD) of various products.

In addition, the rise in e-commerce, demand for contactless delivery and increasing demand for faster delivery are also major factors contributing towards the growth of the drone delivery market.

Drone technology has the potential to meet a range of last-mile consumer use cases, such as prepared food, convenience products, and other small packages, as well as B2B needs, such as moving medical samples to labs.

As the industry steps out of its infancy, drones may become cost-competitive at a direct operating cost level. In fact, under certain conditions such as in regions with poor road infrastructure or when pooling deliveries does not make sense – drones may already be the most cost-effective mode of delivery.


The economic and environmental advantages suggest that drone delivery could become an important part of the delivery ecosystem.

Drones can be faster, more efficient, and more cost effective than traditional delivery methods, particularly in densely populated areas where traffic congestion and parking can slow down delivery trucks and increase costs.

Moreover, drones can provide greater flexibility in delivery times, allowing businesses to offer same-day or even 2-hour delivery windows, which can help them compete more effectively in the marketplace.

As drone technology continues to evolve and become more widely adopted, businesses that embrace this technology are likely to have a competitive advantage over those that do not.

Using drones for logistics can reduce the carbon footprint of delivery operations, decrease traffic congestion, and reduce noise pollution.

Manna's drone delivery service offers a compelling alternative to traditional delivery methods. With its speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness, it has the potential to transform the way goods are delivered, especially in densely populated areas.

The Manna techquisition investment completely aligns with Coca-Cola HBC’s commitment to minimise environmental impact and change the route to market with a more sustainable approach in the future.


“Together we will further enhance our position in this rapidly developing distribution channel and progress our sustainability commitments. This partnership provides an incredible opportunity to be at the forefront of disruptive technologies across the consumer packaged goods market.”

- Miles Karemacher, General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC in Ireland, and Northern Ireland

Coca-Cola HBC’s techquisition investment is a great example of how a traditional business belonging to the food & beverage industry is actively engaged in the journey of transforming itself to deliver greater value to its stakeholders – particularly its shareholders and customers – by properly positioning itself for the future, ready to tackle any disruptions.

The essence of such a transformation unfolding is embedded in a strategy execution approach we have trademarked and call Techquisition, which my firm, Aquaa Partners, has designed and delivers to its clients every day as an experienced and trusted expert partner.

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