Coca-Cola UNITED Announces New Award Named for Claude Nielsen

Coca-Cola UNITED has announced the creation of its first-ever award – the Claude Nielsen Award for Excellence – to recognize a team of associates who exemplify the company’s “Associates First” culture, service to customers and consumers, and commitment to local communities.  

Nielsen, the award’s namesake, retired in April 2023 after 20 years as Chairman of Coca-Cola UNITED’s Board of Directors and more than 40 years with the company.  

Claude Nielsen, center, at the unveiling of the Claude Nielsen Award for Excellence in April 2023 with wife Kate Nielsen, left, and Walker Jones.

“Claude is not only one of the architects of the U.S. Coca-Cola System as it stands today, but his knowledge of our history and the beverage industry – along with his passionate commitment to our associates, customers, consumers and communities – are foundational to UNITED’s success all these years,” said Coca-Cola UNITED President and CEO Mike Suco. “To be honest, no one believes in and lives by our purpose and values more than Claude. He has always valued our associates as the bedrock of our success.”  

The winning team, to be announced in March 2024, will be determined by key metrics and qualitative data that are gathered annually. The winners’ prize includes a trophy designed by metal artists at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, as well as a celebration in their geographic location and a $25,000 donation to a nonprofit organization of their choice. 

“Not only is this award a celebration of Claude and his remarkable career, it is also a celebration of our 10,000-plus associates who work hard every day to bring the real magic of Coca-Cola to our customers, consumers and communities,” Suco said.  

Coca-Cola UNITED, founded in 1902 and headquartered in Birmingham, is the second largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the third largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the U.S. Now with its fifth generation of family working in the business, Coca-Cola UNITED has more than 10,000 associates located in more than 50 facilities across six southeastern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee).  Historically significant franchises within our Coca-Cola UNITED family include Chattanooga, the world’s first Coca-Cola bottler; Atlanta, home of the worldwide Coca-Cola System; and Columbus, Georgia, development site of the original Coca-Cola formula.