Perrier to Unveil New Campaign, First Bottles Seen at Soccer Match
PARIS (AP) _ Perrier will unveil plans to relaunch its sparkling water worldwide next week, the company said Thursday after giving soccer fans a sneak preview of bottles filled since benzene contamination prompted a global recall two weeks ago.
Anne Lamour, a spokeswoman for Source Perrier SA, refused to say whether new cases of the popular drink would be shipped around the world simultaneously or sent a few at a time to the 120 countries affected by the recall.
No specific date has been set for the announcement of the plan and details of new production methods.
The company has increased production at Perrier’s spring at Vergeze in southern France, but Mrs. Lamour declined to say whether 160 million new bottles had been filled to replace recalled stocks.
Perrier had issued a statement on Monday that its water could return to stores within two months, once the company implemented new procedures to prevent a recurrence of the contamination.
Perrier withdrew 72 million bottles from the United States markets in early February after traces of benzene were discovered in Perrier samples from several markets. The recall was expanded worldwide on Feb. 14 after contamination was found in other countries.
The naturally occuring benzene entered Perrier’s bottling line when workers failed to replace a filter carrying carbon dioxide gas from the underground spring to the bottling plant, executives said.
About 22,000 soccer fans got the first public glimpse of Perrier bottled since the recall during a soccer match Wednesday between France and West Germany.
Company repesentatives displayed two cases of the pear-shaped, 1-liter bottles with green letters reading ″nouvelle production,″ but the water was not for sale.
When the recall was announced, Perrier executives said it might take 2 1/2 months to restock shelves with untainted water.
Mrs. Lamour said original estimates have proven correct that the recall would put a $35 million dent in Perrier’s profits.
Perrier sent a telex to domestic distributors last week saying they would receive new bottles March 1, but Mrs. Lamour said that date has been pushed back to at least next week.
The French recall has been voluntary. The company asked distributors to return the bottles to Vergeze for cleaning and refilling or to destroy them on site.
Mrs. Lamour said about 48 million of the 50 million bottles on French shelves before the recall have been accounted for, with a quarter of those refilled.