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$25-Million Splash Is Planned to Rebuild Perrier Sales in U.S.

March 07, 1990|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Those distinctive green bottles of Perrier water are being shipped to distributors again, bearing a special label mark to distinguish them from 160 million bottles recalled last month because of contamination.

The producer, Source Perrier SA, said Tuesday in Paris that the new bottles, marked with the words "Nouvelle Production," will be available by early April throughout most of Europe, Canada and the eastern United States.

The pear-shaped bottles became a symbol for the status- and health-conscious in the 1980s.

The first shipment is expected to reach all U.S. markets within three months. It takes that long for the bottles to be shipped overseas, pass through customs and be distributed to the more than 1 million outlets, from supermarkets to convenience stores and bars, where Perrier is sold.

In the United States, Perrier's importer announced plans for a $25-million marketing campaign to keep the beverage's name before the public while it is being shipped and to rebuild sales of what had been the top-selling imported bottled water once it arrives.

The importer normally spends about $6 million a year on advertising.

The theme of ads slated to appear today in major newspapers across the country is "Perrier. Worth Waiting For."

Perrier also plans a series of humorous radio ads in the 15 largest U.S. markets, featuring actors posing as newscasters for the Perrier News Network reporting on Perrier "sightings."

Perrier has decided that lightening up is the best way to keep its huge following among trend-setters, yuppies and people who like to leave the party sober.

The campaign will feature such slogans as "Eau to Be in Phoenix," and "A Nation Besides Itself With Joy" to trumpet the end of the Perrier drought and its return to supermarket and restaurant shelves.

Perrier was recalled Feb. 9 in the United States after traces of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, were found in some Perrier bottles. The recall was broadened five days later to all 160 million bottles in 120 countries when contaminated bottles showed up in several other countries.

Perrier officials claim that the benzene, a naturally occurring gas that dissolves in water, entered Perrier's bottling line when workers failed to replace a filter used to screen impurities from the carbon dioxide gas that is mixed with the water to provide more fizz.

Perrier executives said new quality control procedures have been installed at their plant in Vergeze, including double filtration of the gas and more careful monitoring of the gas system for benzene.

Helen Berry, market research director for the industry consultant Beverage Marketing Corp., said: "I suspect the consumer will come back to them."

Davis said consumer surveys the company has taken indicate that 95% of Perrier users feel the company acted responsibly in ordering the recall and 84% plan to purchase it in the future.

Source Perrier said it had not yet been able to calculate the worldwide cost of the resupply program. Davis said he could not estimate the costs of the recall in the U.S. either.

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