The owner of the Evian mineral water brand, Danone, is reportedly in talks with both Coca-Cola and Cadbury-Schweppes which could lead to one of the soft drinks groups licensing and distributing Evian in the US.

Such a deal would provide a boost to the Evian brand which has struggled in the last year or so as more competitively priced purified water brands, such as Coke's Dasani and PepsiCo's Aquafina brands, have grown.

Danone, which also owns the Dannon spring water, Sparkletts and Volvic brands, some private-labels and a water-delivery business, is still the fourth largest bottled water company in the US but Evian's sales fell by 5% last year in a market which grew by 30%.

While none of the three companies would comment on the current speculation, Danone's chief executive, Franck Riboud, was reported to have said last month that the company was discussing a distribution agreement with Coca-Cola.

Riboud has attributed Evian's decline in the US to distribution problems. About 60% of Evian's distribution in the US is already through the major Coke bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises. Pepsi bottlers and independents account for the other 40%.

Danone may well feel that entering into a full licensing agreement with either Coca-Cola or Cadbury Schweppes would make the brand a higher priority with the bottlers and give it added marketing muscle and more integrated and organised distribution.