US soft drinks group Coca-Cola will launch Dasani bottled water into the French market in Spring 2004. However Dasani will be competing with brands such as Perrier and Evian. Coca-Cola may find it harder than anticipated to take on the European giants on their home ground.
The announcement sounds like a declaration of war: US soft drinks group Coca-Cola is to launch a bottled water in France. It will have to launch a frontal assault on the Swiss group Nestle (Vittel, Perrier) and the French Danone group (Evian, Volvic), which operates in partnership with Coca-Cola for bottled waters in the US.
The Dasani brand will appear in French supermarkets in the spring of next year. It is already the second largest bottled water brand in the US behind PepsiCo's Aquafina.
Coca-Cola has begun its attempt to conquer the world market for bottled water. The company's bottled water is now present in over a hundred countries under around twenty brands.
Bottled water accounts for 7.4% of the group's turnover, but contributed 44% of volume growth in 2002. Although Coca-Cola is now the third largest bottled water manufacturer in the world in terms of volume, its market share is still far short of those of Nestle and Danone, which endlessly vie for the first place through repeated acquisitions.
Shortly after the French launch, Coca-Cola will introduce Dasani to the UK, where, as in the rest of the world with the exception of France, it will be a purified water rather than a mineral water.
However, Coca-Cola considers France to be one of the most sophisticated bottled water markets in the world, and thinks that French consumers may well reject the purified water version as simply being tap water. For this reason, the French version has been called a "mineral water drink", containing a proportion of mineral water and enriched with 0.2% of calcium and magnesium.
Together, Danone and Nestle control 75% of the French bottled water market through their mineral brands. Coca-Cola may find it harder than planned to convert French consumers to its "mineral water drink".