- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (UPI) A number of Arab and Muslim countries are preparing for a "cola war" as the United States prepares for a war against Iraq, Arab newspapers report.
As the boycott of U.S. products in protest against purported U.S. support for Israel gains ground in the Arab and Muslim worlds, some companies in the region have begun manufacturing similar products with similar trademark names, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported.
Across the Middle East, people have been urged to boycott U.S. products, especially Coca-Cola and Pepsi. According to reports, sales of American cigarettes also have dropped by half during the past several months since the calls for a boycott.
An Iranian company that produces "Zam Zam Cola," a soft drink named after the Zamzam holy spring water in Mecca, has been cashing in on the boycott. The company was founded in 1954 and was a longtime partner of PepsiCo until its contract was terminated after the 1979 Islamic revolution, the Pakistani daily Dawn reported.
According to Al-Watan, Iran exported about 10 million cans of its cola to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the past four months. It said the Iranian firm was seeking to produce large amounts to meet the demand of the millions of Muslims expected to make the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca early next year.
Zam Zam Cola's success prompted a French Muslim businessman, Tawfiq Mathlouti, to plan the introduction of Mecca Cola in Paris next month, allocating 10 percent of the revenues to the Palestinian children, the daily added.
Zam Zam Cola's sales exceeded all expectations when 4 million cans were sold in the first week that the drink made its way into the Saudi market.
A Saudi firm owned by one of the kingdom's princes, Turki Abdallah al-Faisal, this month signed an agreement with the Iranian Zam Zam Group, giving the Saudi company exclusive distribution rights in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and a number of other Arab countries.
Zam Zam Group Chairman Ahmad Taheri said his company's soda drinks managed to reach new export levels in the Arab and Muslim regions, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Afghanistan.
He said the success of the drinks was "largely due to the Arab and Muslim consumers' boycott of American products, which affected soft drinks that carry U.S.-made trademarks."
Mr. Taheri said he expected a "good share of the Saudi and Egyptian markets, which are the most important target markets and which would give us access to enter other Arab markets in western Asia and North Africa."
He said Zam Zam produces 2.5 billion cans annually, in addition to 100 million cans of nonalcoholic beer, which he said would be doubled soon.
Zam Zam currently owns 16 soft-drink factories in Iran that produce cola, orange, lemon and mango flavors, Mr. Taheri said, noting that the new factories to be set up in Saudi Arabia would be the first to produce Zam Zam products outside Iran.


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