Chris Brook-Carter

Double bubble

By: Chris Brook-Carter - 9 December 2003 14:58

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The Coca-Cola Company has had a busy week this last seven days - its name appearing three times among headlines in today’s news alone. The battle against the health and obesity lobbies that is raging - in the UK and US markets in particular - is sure to keep the company in the news for sometime, albeit for the wrong reasons.  However, its decision to take on water giants Nestle and Dasani in France could make for the most interesting struggle next year.

On the health front, the industry seems at last to be formulating a defence against claims it is at the root of rising obesity levels amongst children. At an industry conference in New York yesterday, Coke chief Douglas Daft made some encouraging noises about the industry’s need for action. Rejecting what he called “a simplistic government solution”, he said beverage companies need to work together to find a solution, by providing choice for consumers that promote healthy living.

However, the company continues to be accused of double standards. And a row in the UK is growing over the soft drink company’s sponsorship of the BBC-aired pop charts, because of its young audience. The sponsorship follows news that the latest “face of Coke” is the young soccer prodigy Wayne Rooney and a less recent campaign based around the Harry Potter films. 

To a degree, the soft drinks industry is being made a scapegoat for the health problems in Europe and the US, but while it continues marketing strategies such as these, it is merely making a rod for its own back.

While its marketing policies put noses out of joint within various health lobbies, the strategy for its water brands looks likely to ruffle a few feathers amongst competitors.
Coke’s decision, announced in the last week, to launch Dasani in France will make for a fascinating battle with Nestle and Danone.

The move into the European companies’ backyards is surely a clear statement of intent that Coke is determined to establish itself as a world-sized water player in each of its markets. It is certainly one to watch in the next 12 months.

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