MARCH 31, 2004
Coca-Cola bottled water goes down the
launch hit by news that it is treated tap water and contains
Neo Hui Min
LONDON - Soft drink giant Coca-Cola's
multimillion-dollar bid to tap into Europe's bottled water
market may go down as one of the most disastrous product
launches in corporate history.
The company has been forced to pull
the plug on the spring launch of its 'pure' water Dasani in
France and Germany, following some horrendous publicity in
Britain where it was rolled out a month ago with a £7 million
(S$21.5 million) marketing budget.
It turns out that the product of a 'highly
sophisticated purification process' selling for a re-
commended 95 pence (S$2.90) per 500ml was far from the 'Real
Humiliatingly, it was first revealed
that the bottles were filled with treated tap water from
Coca-Cola's factory in south-east London - a long way from the
French Alps where some competing brands are bottled at source.
Far worse, the company then found its
water contained levels of the carcinogenic chemical bromate
that were twice as high as that allowed by the UK Food
More than 500,000 bottles were
immediately pulled from shop shelves.
On Thursday, the company said it will
delay a relaunch in Britain and the push into France and
Germany would have to wait.
Coca-Cola said the product was
withdrawn 'due to a quality issue' and that it has 'decided
not to re-introduce Dasani into Great Britain at this time'.
It stressed that this is 'an isolated
and resolved incident', but it also postponed the launch in
France and Germany 'as the timing is no longer considered
A Coca-Cola spokesman told The
Straits Times that the company would try again with Dasani in
a British market worth £1 billion but could not say when.
Through Dasani, Coca-Cola was hoping
to grab a share of the massive European water market dominated
by Nestle and Danone.
But the company appears to have run
into troubled waters from the start.
It was slammed by the British media
after it emerged that the purification process based on Nasa
spacecraft technology was in fact reverse osmosis used in many
modest domestic water purifiers.
Bacteria, minerals and toxins had
been filtered out but, in the process of returning some
essential minerals, Coca Cola had added calcium chloride to 'deliver
the required calcium'.
What it did not realise was that 'the
high level of bromide contained in the calcium chloride' would
Long-term exposure to the chemical
increases the risk of cancer.
While the Food Standards Agency said
that the amount in Dasani posed 'no immediate risk to public
health', the le- vels presented 'an unnecessary risk'.
Consumers have certainly been put off
Mrs Ann Clarke, 34, who was buying
bottled water at a supermarket, described Dasani's launch as
'quite a disgrace'.
Asked about the postponed relaunch,
she said: 'I guess they're right to hold off the relaunch.
Frankly, from what I've heard, I don't see why I should choose
their product over all the others you see here.'
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