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Troubled waters keep Coke's Dasani off French shelves

In a land where babies drink Evian and consumers pay a premium for 'natural,' revelations about chemical content threatens to sink a US brand .

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"Waiting for Dasani..."

That has been the slogan, full of anticipation, on the French website of America's second biggest bottled water brand, as Coca Cola prepared to roll out its latest transAtlantic assault on the land of Perrier and Evian next month.

Now, it seems, the French will have to wait a bit longer. Coca-Cola announced Wednesday that it was indefinitely postponing Dasani's launch in both France and Germany in the wake of a public-relations fiasco that has focused fresh attention on what those handy little bottles of water actually contain.

Score one to the French, then, as they battle to defend their precious food and drinks industry against an American invasion that has swept the country with Coke and Big Macs?

Not really. The US beverage giant appears, rather, to have shot itself in the foot as it sought a niche in a connoisseur's market.

Coca-Cola's European retreat comes in the wake of a disastrous introduction of Dasani in Great Britain, where one embarrassing revelation after another has polluted the Continental market.

First, it was discovered that Dasani, marketed as "pure, still water" and sold for 95 pence ($1.74) a half liter, was simply a treated version of tap water from Sidcup (a bedroom community southeast of London), for which local residents pay a nickel.

"Eau Dear," punned one British tabloid headline writer.

But things got worse for Dasani's $13 million British marketing campaign. Last week, Coca-Cola hastily withdrew 500,000 bottles when it was discovered they contained nearly twice the legal amounts of a chemical that may cause cancers if consumed in large amounts. The company says it has no immediate plans for a relaunch in Britain.

Though Coca-Cola initially said it would press ahead with plans to launch Dasani in France next month, and in Germany in May, it issued a statement Wednesday that "the timing is no longer considered optimal."


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