The strategic development of the Costa Coffee brand has been held back for the last three years under The Coca-Cola Company due to the pandemic.

Speaking on an investor call, Coca-Cola president and CEO James Quincey said the company’s essential thesis on coffee remains the same: “It’s a huge market. It’s growing.”

He said the US drinks giant had an aspiration to be “a total beverage company everywhere.”

“That’s not going to happen overnight, and so we need to make progress in a disciplined way in different category-country combinations… on our journey to the total aspirations.”

On Costa, he added: “There’s lots of money in it. If we can find a path, there’s a tremendous growth opportunity for the Coke system there.

“We’ve got a vision. The reality is the timing was very unfortunate, getting it just before the pandemic.

“In strategic terms, despite all the experimentation, despite all the learning, despite all the initial steps, in big strategic terms, we haven’t advanced because essentially COVID put it on hold for three years. We now need to get the execution ramped up for Costa against the vision and in the coming years demonstrate that that holds water.”

Despite this, Costa Coffee’s post-pandemic recovery continues to be a key contributor to its parent company’s revenues.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, which acquired Costa Coffee for £3.9bn ($5.4bn) in 2018, reported full-year 2022 revenue growth of 11% to reach $43bn.

Sales in the company’s coffee segment grew 13% over the 12-month period, primarily driven by the strong post-pandemic trading of Costa Coffee stores in the UK, where it operates 2,700 stores.

World Coffee Portal research found the total branded UK coffee shop market is now valued at £4.9bn ($5.9bn), representing an increase of 11.9% over the last 12 months, and has expanded to reach 9,885 outlets.

In August 2022 Costa Coffee opened its first bricks-and-mortar outlet in the US, and announced market entries in Morocco, Georgia, Pakistan and Austria in its fourth quarter of 2022.