A source close to the company said Coke marketing chiefs were working “round the clock” to get the top secret project off the ground.
And it is understood to be scouring for a new manufacturing site well away from Sidcup in Kent, the scene of its Dasani “tap water” nightmare. One site being tapped up for potential is a derelict plant in Hadfield, Derbyshire.
However, the company is understood to have all but ruled out a return to the filtered tap water process which marred Dasani and led to a cancer-
causing chemical scare. Instead, Coca-Cola is seeking a mineral or spring water reserve to provide the basis for a completely new brand.
The source said: “Coca-Cola is under no illusions about how big a nightmare Dasani turned out to be, but it knows it needs to get back into the water market. It is the fastest growing sector in soft drinks.”
According to latest estimates, the water market is now worth more than £1.3bn and growing at around 20% year on year.
Ian Deste, head of corporate affairs at Coca-Cola Enterprises, refused to be drawn on plans, but admitted the company was “aware” of the Hadfield site.
He added: “We have no announcements at present.”
Reaction to Coke’s new plans was mixed among the buying community. One influential buyer said: “This will have to be good if it is to convince consumers Coke can come up with a credible water brand. Dasani was the biggest PR disaster of modern times and people won’t forget it in a hurry.”
Kevin Harrison, impulse category manager at Jacksons Stores, was more upbeat: “I wouldn’t have any reservations about Coke coming back into the water market.”