Alabama Academy of Honor


Claude B. Nielsen

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2016.

Claude B. Nielsen joined Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. in 1979, holding a variety of operational and managerial positions until 1991 when he was appointed Chief Executive Officer. Under his direction as CEO, Coca-Cola UNITED has become the largest privately held Coca-Cola Bottler in the United States and the third largest Coca-Cola bottler in the nation. It is the sixth largest privately held company in Alabama.


Coca-Cola UNITED is comprised of 36 franchised Coca-Cola territories operating in 35 sales centers in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. UNITED operates production facilities and employs nearly 6,000 citizens in local communities.


In 2013, the Coca-Cola Company announced the commencement of the 21st Century Beverage Partnership model. This model refranchised territories to select Coca-Cola bottlers to strengthen and build a more agile, customer-focused franchise business partnership in the United States. As one of only five participating Coca-Cola bottlers, Coca-Cola UNITED engaged in the architectural design, strategic planning and implementation of acquiring multiple franchise territories, integrating systems and processes, and transitioning customers and employees.


Starting with the acquisition of Oxford, Alabama, in the first quarter of 2014 (the initial market in the refranchising process for the North America Coca-Cola System), UNITED has successfully transitioned 17 Coca-Cola facilities and territories, including more than 2,500 associates serving approximately 38,500 customers in the Southeast. All of these transitions have been accomplished with an unwavering commitment to a local operating model built on value creation for the benefit of employees, consumers, customers and communities. Substantial expansions have been announced, most notably Atlanta and Mobile, that will continue through 2017.


Nielsen earned a bachelor of arts degree 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.
Active in the business community, he has held many leadership positions within the Coca-Cola System and soft drink industry, recently serving as Chairman of the American Beverage Association and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Additionally, Nielsen is on the Board of Governors of the Coca-Cola Bottlers’ Association.


Throughout his career, he has shared his energy and enthusiasm 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 is currently serving on the Executive Committee of the Birmingham Business Alliance.


Nielsen and his wife, Kate, are parishioners of the Church of the Advent and have three children and five grandchildren.