DUBAI: “Mecca-Cola” inventor Tawfik Mathlouthi is bringing his popular product to the Middle East, confident that in troubled times a politicised soft drink will sell in the heart of the Islamic world.
After shifting more than 2.2 million bottles in Europe in just two months, he has signed a deal with an Emirati firm, Mojarrad General Trading (MGT), to build a production plant in Dubai with distribution rights across the Middle East.
“Saudi Arabia has already ordered five million 1.5 litre bottles,” said Mathlouthi, a Franco-Tunisian radio journalist.
The new outfit, Mecca Middle East Co, with capital of US$4mil, hopes to bring the plant on line before the end of the year at the Jebel Ali free zone, the biggest in the region.
Annual sales of 200 million bottles are targeted.
“Several countries in the Middle East, including Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Libya have already agreed about distribution rights,” he said.
Mathlouthi has no qualms about exploiting the Muslim holy city, saying he intends to build “a strictly humanitarian foundation and a means of fighting against American hegemony.”
But he adds that he “admires America”, seeking only “to establish a lucrative operation that helps to ease human suffering, the worst of which is endured by the Palestinians.
“What I condemn is the double-handed policy of the United States,” said Mathlouthi.
Twenty per cent of Mecca-Cola profits go to charity, Mathlouthi told AFP.
Half of that goes on Palestinian children, education and heritage.
“The other 10% will be given to charities in Europe which work for world peace and support the Palestinian people’s legitimate struggle for independence.”
The label on the bottle is not dissimilar to Coca-Cola, printed in the same bright red with white lettering.
“Ten per cent for Palestine” and “10% for European charities” is printed in Islamic green on the label, which includes a picture of al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
“Don’t Drink Stupid, Drink Committed”, says the campaign slogan, over another political statement: “United we stand for dignity”.
“South African officials have asked us to devote 10% of the profit to help children suffering from AIDS,” added Mathlouthi.
He said an Iranian cola named Zam Zam-Cola, after the holy spring at Mecca, had provide inspiration. Zam Zam found a market last year among Arab populations urged to shun Western products in protest at US policy in the Middle East.
“The name Mecca recalls the holy city of Islam,” he said. “At a time of Islamophobia, it seems important to have a unifying symbol. Don’t all eyes turn towards Mecca to call on Allah to stop injustice?”
Mathlouthi is already working on plans to launch “Halal Fried Chicken”, with a nod to Kentucky, and a coffee drink to be called “Mecca-Cola-coffee”.
Meanwhile, Mathlouthi has gone to Pakistan to try to break into a first Asian market. – AFP
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