Soft Drinks Pesticide Controversy in India



Case Code : CLMM003
Publication date : 2005
Subject : Marketing Management
Industry : Beverages
Length : 03 Pages
Price : Rs. 100

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Key words:

Cola Majors, Coke, Pepsi, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Soft Drinks, Lindane, DDT, Chlorpyrifos, Malathion, Pesticides, Indian Parliament, Press Ads, Wait-and-Watch Approach, Joint Parliamentary Committee, Sushma Swaraj, Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, Central Food Laboratory (CFL), Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA), European Union (EU) Standards, Lok Sabha, Sunita Narain, Sunil Gupta, 'Recharge its Connect', Shashi K. Kalathil, Brand Equity, Consumer's Mind, 'Thanda' Series, Shah Rukh Khan and Sachin Tendulkar


1: This caselet is intended for use only in class discussions.
2: More comprehensive case studies are priced at Rs.200 to Rs.700 (US $5 to US $16) per copy.


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The caselet highlights the pesticide controversy that Cola majors faced in 2003. It describes the New Delhi-based environmental group, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report that put the entire soft drink industry in a bad light. The report claimed that its laboratory tests had discovered that most soft drinks sold in India were contaminated with large doses of pesticides like Lindane, DDT, Chlorpyrifos, and Malathion. The caselet provides a detailed account of how Cola majors overcame this crisis through the use of various marketing communication tools.


   Crisis management in marketing management
   Role of public relations in crisis management
   Influence of political and legal environment on marketing strategy
   Ethical issues in marketing management


The history of Cola majors in India was marred with controversies starting with Coke, which was asked to leave India by a left-leaning government in 1977. These controversies surrounding the Cola giant did not subside even in its second spell in the country.

The protests of nutritionists started ever since these MNCs (Coke and Pepsi) began promoting their products aggressively. However, their protests were lost in the persistent advertising campaigns involving celebrities from the celluloid and sports world on television and other media. Consequently the sales of these MNCs touched six million bottles a year.

The protests sprouted from political, nutritional, or environmental concerns. In 2003, the Pudussery panchayat in Palakkad district where the Coca Cola's Plachimada plant is situated, refused to renew the Coca Cola license, saying the plant was depleting ground water in the region. But the license was renewed after a court intervention...

Questions for Discussion:

1. Comment on the way Coca Cola and Pepsi Co. handled the controversies that hit them.

2. How should a company handle a crisis situation? What type of marketing communication plan should the cola giants have adopted to stop the crisis from blowing out of proportion?