Coke Cans Dasani's European Rollout

25 March 2004

Coca-Cola has cancelled the European launch of its Dasani water brand following a public relations disaster in Britain.

The beverage behemoth had hoped that Dasani, America's second biggest bottled water, could repeat its success across the Atlantic. But the brand's launch in the UK -- the first stage in the planned European roll-out -- has been dogged by bad publicity and a product recall.

As a result, Coke has shelved Dasani's expansion into continental Europe and says it has no current plans to relaunch the brand in Britain.

"Although [the recall] is an isolated and resolved incident in Great Britain, Coca-Cola has also decided to postpone the introduction of the Dasani brand in France and Germany, as the timing is no longer considered optimal," the company said.

However, the drinks giant insists it still has long-term plans for the water in all three markets.

Despite a carefully crafted PR campaign to position Dasani as a "lifestyle brand", the launch ran into early trouble when the press discovered the product was little more than purified tap water. Coke had never made any secret of the water's origin, but that did not stop the papers accusing the company of ripping off consumers [WAMN: 03-Mar-04].

Then last week, Coke had to recall the entire UK supply after it found levels of bromate -- a chemical that can increase the risk of cancer given long-term exposure -- exceeded legal levels [WAMN: 22-Mar-04].

In light of these difficulties, analysts believe Dasani would have stood little chance of displacing Perrier, Evian and Vittel in France -- even though Coke planned to use spring water from Belgium in this market rather than the mains supply.

Coke tried to glean some positives from the embarrassing climbdown, saying it had spent only £1.75 million ($3.17m; €2.62m) from the £7m UK launch budget. The money will now be used elsewhere.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff