International sales anchored Coca-Cola Co.’s 5 percent third-quarter growth in unit case volume while the Atlanta-based beverage giant’s sales declined in North America.

Unit case volume, an indicator of the strength of beverage sales in particular markets, was down 2 percent in North America compared to the same period last year.

The company’s international business units combined to post a 7 percent increase in the same category, leading to net revenue growth of 9 percent and earnings per share of $0.83, a 17 percent jump compared to third quarter 2007.

Coke’s leadership saw upswings in places like China, India, Nigeria and Turkey as indicative of the company’s ability to successfully adapt and diversify in tough economic times.

“Our international operations, in particular the emerging markets, continue to drive our growth, more than offsetting the challenges that we are addressing in North America,” said Coke President and CEO Muhtar Kent in a statement.

The company forecasts the tight market in North America to continue throughout 2009, most likely forcing it to rely further on boosts in sales in less saturated markets.

According to the company’s third quarter earnings report, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Korea and Turkey delivered double-digit unit case volume growth.

In China, unit case volume increased 17 percent.  In third quarter 2008, Coke announced plans to acquire Chinese juice maker Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd. for about $2.4 billion and launched Yuan Ye, a green leaf tea beverage.

Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and the regions of Eastern Europe, North and West Africa and the Middle East posted high single-digit growth in unit case volume.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...