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For packaged water brands, it's no dry run

By Parul Gupta
May 31, 2003 12:33 IST
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In the four months since the Centre for Science and Environment published a report saying leading packaged water brands contained pesticides beyond permissible limits, these brands recorded a boom in business.

Ramesh Chauhan-owned Bisleri sales have grown 50 per cent since February 4, when the report was published, against the same period of 2002.

Pepsi's Aquafina has seen sales surge 75 per cent during the period, while sales of Coca-Cola's Kinley have grown 25-30 per cent despite a 20 per cent hike in prices.

"We have sold 5-6 million cases of Aquafina since February, which is a little less than double of last years' volume," Pepsi Foods Executive Director (marketing) Shashi K Kalathil said, adding that people had shifted from small, unknown water brands to bigger, established brands.

Coca-Cola India Deputy President Sanjiv Gupta said there had been no effect of the CSE study on the sales of its water brand.

"Since Coca-Cola is being able to sell all that it is producing, we have even started charging a premium of 20 per cent on Kinley," he said.

Last month, the company increased its prices from Rs 10 to Rs 12. Gupta added that Kinley had become the market leader in the PET segment as well.

Chauhan said the bigger and the smaller players in the business were thriving simultaneously.

"The study had stimulated the media more than the common people. The smaller brands still operate in regions that have low awareness levels, and we don't have the resources to fight them in such places," he said.

CSE Director Sunita Narain said: "It is very clear in this case that the companies have managed to bamboozle the government and, therefore, the new standards have not been enacted. If the sales of these brands have gone up, it is because there are no options."

The CSE had said most of the brands of packaged/mineral water available in the country contained pesticides in significantly higher than permissible limits, which could cause serious physical impairment ranging from damage to the nervous system to lung cancer.

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