‘Arab Cola’ a fizz too far

The Nice-based Franco-Arab company aims to offer an alternative to Muslim drinkers and all those disaffected with the US political stance on Iraq.

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By  John Irish Published  March 6, 2003

While the desert war has not yet been launched, the ‘fizz war’ is now in full swing, after the launch of Arab Cola today (March 06), the third major Muslim soft drink venture in as many months.

The thinking behind introducing these new carbonated drinks has been to offer Arab and Muslim consumers an opportunity to boycott the two US cola giants, Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. Iranian Zamzam Cola has been around for the last 24 years and recently reported a huge increase in sales in Bahrain, particularly as the situation in the West Bank, has deteriorated.

However, the launch of the Paris-based Mecca Cola, three months ago, the UK-based Qibla Cola last month and now Arab cola, has taken the cola wars to new levels and may prove to be just too much for consumers to swallow.

“We do not want to compete with Coca-Cola, we just want to offer an alternative to the consumers of the Arab world and more significantly, all those opposed to war,” said Gérard Le Blanc, founder of Arab Cola, speaking to provincial French newspaper Nice-Matin.

Arab Cola is hoping, like its cola rivals, to tap into the Muslim world market, but also believes that it can break the hold of the American cola companies on the huge European anti-war on Iraq market.

Like many of the other Coca-Cola imitations, Arab Cola is adorned with the familiar red and white labels, but differs by outlining in green, a colour traditionally associated with Islam, the shape of a mosque’s dome.

The label may appear to indicate a specific Muslim tinge to the way it is run. However, Le Blanc denies any such talk. “Not at all. Our company is multi-racial, comprising of French, French Pieds-Noirs and Moroccans. As for the Americans, it’s not because we don’t always agree with them that we don’t like them.”

Arab Cola will initially be targeted at Muslim communities in France, but as the drink’s slogan suggests, ‘ The cola of the Arab world’, it hopes to launch throughout the Middle East and North Africa in the near future.

Similar to Mecca Cola and Qibla Cola, Arab Cola will donate a portion of its profits to charity. However, Le Blanc is keen to point out that unlike Mecca Cola, which he claims is politically motivated, Arab Cola will not have political or religious overtones, but will support associations, which are based in countries where Arab Cola will be distributed.

According to Nice-Matin, Arab cola is much sweeter than the American soft drink in the hope that it will appeal to the sugary tastes of the Orient.

The latest cola alternative comes just days after Coca-Cola announced widespread restructuring of its operations in the Middle East in the face of the Gulf crisis and stiffer competition in the region.

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