COMMENT: Coke back on bottled water
Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola is taking a major gamble by launching another bottled water so quickly after the fiasco of its botched Dasani launch. Coca-Cola's credibility suffered considerably following the withdrawal of Dasani and, in its eagerness to profit from the fastest growing drinks category, the company could find that it has been too hasty.
Coke is planning to return to the UK bottled water market barely a few months after the disastrous launch of its Dasani brand, according to The Grocer magazine. The company decided to withdraw the Dasani product from shelves in March 2004 after the water was found to be contaminated with illegal levels of a chemical linked to cancer. The withdrawal came weeks after it was revealed that the source for the Dasani water was the mains supply to Coke's factory in Sidcup, Kent.
The company is unlikely to use the same facilities for the relaunched water, as it is reportedly looking at a number of new sites to start manufacturing. It has also apparently ruled out a return to the filtered tap water process that was used for Dasani, though the company refused to confirm these reports.
The Dasani brand is currently used in the US and several European markets. However, considering the widespread media coverage that the Dasani debacle generated, the brand will not have recovered sufficiently to be used for the launch of a product which only has its brand as a distinguishing factor.
The speed with which Coke is returning to the bottled water market is striking, considering that the Dasani fiasco only took place a few months ago. However, the bottled water category is the fastest growing sector in the soft drinks market and it is essential that the company ensures a speedy return. Yet there must be some doubt, even at Coke HQ, as to whether it can overcome credibility issues and successfully launch a bottled water product in the UK market so soon after the last failure.
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