Coca-Cola has landed itself in hot water with independent retailers - after banning them from stocking rival brands of bottled H2O in its chillers.
The drinks giant has launched its first assault on Britain’s bottled water market with Dasani, a filtered water fortified with minerals. It plans to back the newcomer with a £7m advertising blitz.
However, retailers have accused the company, which
was responsible for the distribution of Nestlé’s water brands until recently, of “bully boy” tactics in attempting to squeeze rival offerings off shelf.
The accusation has caused particular outrage in the home town of Nestlé-owned Buxton Mineral Water, where retailers have accused Coca-Cola of waging a vendetta against the brand. One retailer said: “These are bully-boy tactics in their most extreme form. Coca-Cola gave me a chiller which it used to stock with the Nestlé brands. Now it tells me I can’t put those brands in there any more and will either have to stock Dasani or hand the chiller back. I am now considering doing just that.”
A spokesman for Coca-Cola said the ban on rival brands only applied to retailers who had been given a free chiller. He said: “We provide our customers with a cooler unit free of charge for the chilled display of Coca-Cola products.
“This suits many shopkeepers as we have a large portfolio of products including water brands Malvern and Dasani. It is rare for retailers to have no other storage space and there is nothing to stop them stocking Buxton elsewhere in the shop or in other chillers.”
A similar row over freezer space for ice cream landed Wall’s with a Competition Commission ban on exclusivity deals in April 2000.
Simon Mowbray