By Sanniah Hassan
There has been an alarmingly increasing trend of consuming and advocating the consumption of bottled mineral water globally as well as in Pakistan, although it has its perks for providing ‘fresh’, ‘clean’ water to the people. It comes with its own list of evils. Recently, Coca Cola has launched their mineral water Dasani in Pakistan. This may be a good news for the brand but, it makes me vary to think what events and accidents might ensue now following the launch of Dasani in Pakistan—a country which is troubled with a limited supply of clean water.
Before I delve into whether it is a wise choice to choose Dasani in Pakistan or not, let me lay down some interesting facts from Coca Cola’s failure to successfully incorporate Dasani into the UK culture.
Coca Cola initially introduced its product in the United States in 1999. After its success in the US, the company set out to conquer the British and European market with its line of ‘pure’ water: Dasani. The product was a major fail and an ultimate embarrassment for the company as Dasani was shut down within approximately five weeks of its launch. Considering Coca Cola’s history as one of the largest selling beverage brands, it came as a surprise initially; however, it was a series of events that ultimately led to the shutting down of this multi-million dollar project in the UK.
Bill Garret in the BBC Money Programme labeled it as “coke’s water bomb”. Garrett elaborated that although “Coca Cola does not make many mistakes” this was one which they could not fix.
He mentions that although a few people in the beverage industry were aware of this, it was in fact due to Simon Mowbray’s (of The Grocer Magazine) remark that Dasani was simply “tap water” unlike its competitors which came either from ‘Alpine glaciers’ or ‘precious natural springs’.
The tabloids labeled it as ‘a disaster’, ‘a fiasco’ and even ‘a PR catastrophe’ but, Coca Cola continued to sell their product. The executives even insisted that Dasani was ‘sourced and bottled’ in a factory in the Sidcup area. They protested that it was bottled through a highly ‘sophisticated process’ to create the ‘purest’ drinking water. However, the 18th of March in 2004 brought terrible news for the international brand only five weeks after its launch. A bad batch of minerals contaminated the water production with a potentially ‘carcinogenic (capable of causing cancer) bromate’ due to which Coca Cola had to withdraw the circulation of about 500,000 bottles, of Dasani. This also led them to indefinitely postpone their launch in France and Germany, respectively.
Where tap water cost was approximately 0.03 p, Coca Cola was selling it at 95 p, as stated by Kaushik Trivedi in his blog in which he elaborately discussed this issue as “Dasani Fiasco – An Advertising Case Study”. Furthermore, Trivedi discussed how the company had to ‘backtrack’ once it was discovered by the FSA and ‘lost face in public’. According to Gordon McMillan the company claimed their water came from Thames Water which they then purified and filled the bottles with. To this, a representative responded by saying that the “Thames water passes 99.92% of quality tests” so it does not need to be further purified.
Judith Snyder, the brand PR manager for Dasani claimed, “We would never say tap water isn’t drinkable. It’s just that Dasani is as pure as water can get. There are different levels of purity.”
This brings me back to why the issue is relevant in Pakistan. If Coca Cola can get away with fooling the public in UK where the government takes immediate action, what are they capable of doing in a country where the public is not aware of the dangers, and where the government is focused on the upcoming elections? Mineral water is not healthy as it is but, the UK scandal makes me even more vary to try Dasani in Pakistan.