Coca-Cola covets juicy European bottled water market

After Smartwater, the American group launched the Aquarius brand in France.

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Smartwater bottles from the Coca-Cola Group in Draper, Utah in 2011.
Smartwater bottles from the Coca-Cola Group in Draper, Utah, 2011. George Frey / RUETERS

Coca-Cola is about to market a new drink in France. A soda ? No, the product in the pipes is none other than "functional" water, that is to say enriched with vitamins and minerals, under the Aquarius brand. All a symbol. The Atlanta firm covets, indeed, the juicy European bottled water market.

In 2018, Coca-Cola began selling bottles of water to the Smartwater brand in France. A label that entered its portfolio during the acquisition of the US company Glacéau, for 4.1 billion euros, in 2017. Smartwater, whose merits were originally touted by the American actress Jennifer Aniston, found his audience across the Atlantic. A success that has not failed to reinforce the positions of Coca-Cola in this market, built at the turn of the 2000s, with its iconic brand Dasani.

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The soda champion thus holds the title of the world's leading bottled water seller. According to research firm Euromonitor, it claimed, in 2018, a market share value of 8.2%, ahead of the Swiss Nestlé, 7.6%, and French Danone (6.7%). Knowing that the supermarket water market is estimated at 130 billion dollars. A ranking that may surprise the Europeans, because the balance of power is quite different on the Old Continent. In Western Europe, Nestlé and Danone are almost equal in mind, with market shares estimated at 12.7% and 12.2% respectively, far ahead of Coca-Cola (4.6%).

Strong margins

No wonder, then, that the king of cola advance his pawns in Europe on the water market. But with caution. The launch of Dasani in the United Kingdom in 2004, a veritable commercial flop, closed the doors of some markets for some time, including France. The highlight of a prosaic reality – Dasani was a bottled tap water – had negated the marketing discourse, and the discovery of too high a bromate level had sentenced her.

The group is the world's largest bottled water seller, with a market share of 8.2%, ahead of Nestlé and Danone

Since then, Coca-Cola, which owned the Belgian brand Chaudfontaine, went on the offensive by buying in 2008 a company bottling spring water in Morpeth, England. This is where the company started producing Smartwater for Europe. With a launch in Great Britain in 2014, then a development that is staining. To meet the needs, a second plant in Dongen, the Netherlands, produces the Smartwater. Bottles marketed in France come from one of these two plants. Other countries have been served for a year by a third industrial site, located in Hungary.


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