Claude Nielsen joined Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. in 1979 and held a variety of operational and managerial positions until 1991 when he was appointed Chief Executive Officer. He assumed the additional role of Chairman in 2003. In 2016, he retired as CEO while continuing to serve as Chairman.
In 2013, UNITED embarked upon a major territory expansion, which more than tripled the size and scope of the company in terms of revenues, geography, number of employees and facilities, truly an epic transformation of the 120-year-old Birmingham, Alabama-based company.
Today, Coca-Cola UNITED has approximately 10,000 associates located in close to 60 facilities across six southeastern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee). The company’s operations consist of state-of-the-art sales and distribution centers, along with eight manufacturing facilities, serving more than 150,000 customers across their footprint. Historically significant franchises within the 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.
Coca-Cola UNITED is the second largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America, the third largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the U.S., and it is also one of the largest privately held companies in Alabama.
A native of Evergreen, Alabama, Claude earned a BA in Economics from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1973 and received his master’s degree in Business from The Colgate-Darden School of Business at The University of Virginia in 1975.
Claude has been extremely active in the business community, as well as serving in leadership positions within the Coca-Cola System and beverage industry. Some of these include serving as Chairman of both the American Beverage Association and The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. He also served on the Board of Governors of The Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Association.
He has also shared his energy, enthusiasm, and passion with numerous civic and charitable organizations, including the United Way of Central Alabama, the Birmingham Airport Authority Board, and the American Cancer Society. He is a member of the Birmingham Rotary Club and has served on the Executive Committee of the Birmingham Business Alliance.
Claude was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2016 and into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame in 2022. In addition, he and his wife, Kate, were recognized by the Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2017 with the “Heart of an Eagle” award for their community service, and they were named Outstanding Civic Leaders by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2021.
Claude and Kate are parishioners of the Church of the Advent and have three children and nine grandchildren.