ZamZam on tenterhooks

ZamZam Cola, the Iranian alternative to Coca Cola and Pepsi has denied reports that Saudi Arabian authorities are set to ban the drink from entering the Kingdom.

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By  John Irish Published  August 13, 2003

Saudi Arabia’s cola connoisseurs may not have to wave goodbye to ZamZam cola after the Iranian fizzy drink giant denied reports emanating from the Kingdom that the authorities had banned the product from entering the country.

Initial reports from the London-based Al Hayat newspaper and the Saudi daily Arab News suggested that objections to the brand name, ZamZam could be the cause of the ban. Muslims consider the water from Mecca’s ZamZam spring to hold specific religious significance.

Despite this, Awal Hassani, Zamzam’s export manager was quick to stress that as far as he knew there were no official decrees or regulations issued preventing it from entering Saudi Arabia.

“We have not received any official letter or feedback with regard to stopping us. Our agent in Dammam is following the matter. At the moment it is not an official report,” he told Arabian Business.

An official from the Al Majarra Company, which represents ZamZam in the Kingdom added that three containers containing 180,000 bottles of the soft drink were recently given the go ahead to enter the country by customs officials.

Meanwhile, a possible pretender to Zamzam’s throne, the France-based Mecca Cola would not be drawn on Zamzam’s problems. However, Dr Khaled Al Mahamid, vice-president and managing director of Mecca Cola Middle East stressed that at this stage his cola alternative had received the green light to operate in the Kingdom.

ZamZam confirmed that should the ban actually come into place it would explore alternative ways to enter the Saudi market.

“We have kept our options open, which include legal action to reverse this decision and changing the brand name in case legal action is not a viable course of action,” a spokesman from ZamZam told Arab News.

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Commerce and Industry was unavailable for comment.

ZamZam was established in 1954 becoming Pepsi Cola’s Iranian partner until the two parted ways after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Besides Saudi Arabia, the soft drink is available throughout the Arab World, ranging from Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates to Iraq, although it has faced difficulty breaking the 85% market share held by Coca Cola and Pepsi.

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