Cola Wars


For years, soft-drink magnate Coca-Cola (in its efforts to create a world of soda drinkers) has blanketed the globe with images linking its fizzy drink to fun, happiness and romantic satisfaction.

But now Coke is coming up against a tiny rival with a decidedly different marketing strategy. Instead of blitzing the public with lighthearted pictures or appeals to its flavor, newcomer Mecca Cola (launched last month) is marketing itself with images from the intifada.

Based in France, Mecca Cola pledges to donate 10 percent of its profits to Palestinian humanitarian causes. The company, which imitates Coke’s signature swirl in its logo, broadcasts from its Web site pictures of suffering children, rock-throwing youth before a backdrop of flames and clashes with the Israeli army.

Mecca’s slogan, "Ne buvez plus idiot, buvez engage," has been translated in the media as everything from "Don’t drink foolishly, drink with commitment" to "Drink engaged, not like an idiot."

Primarily distributed in France and the Arab world, Mecca Cola (according to the company’s Web site) is also available in eight cities in the United States. The Jewish Week was unable to determine what stores in the New York area sell the pro-Palestinian soda or how the drink compares in flavor to Coke, which has long claimed that secret ingredients offer a trademark taste.

Officials with the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola were not available for comment.

Mecca Cola comes as Arabs (claiming that American companies provide tax revenues that are translated into U.S. aid for Israel) are boycotting a wide range of well-known American brands, often replacing them with ones that advocate the Palestinian cause. According to USA Today, Egyptian consumers can now choose from two pro-Palestinian potato chip brands: one bears a cartoon likeness of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, while another shows a Palestinian boy preparing to hurl a stone at an Israeli tank.

Mecca Cola is not Coke’s first pro-Palestinian rival. Iran produces Zamzam Cola, which apparently markets itself as an "Islamic cola alternative." And even Coke, in efforts to fight boycotts, has donated to Palestinian causes such as the Palestinian national soccer team, reports USA Today.

According to Newsweek, Saudi Arabia ordered five million bottles of Mecca Cola, and the product is doing so well that its creator, Tawfiq Mathlouthi, is considering alternatives to other American products, like laundry detergent, soup, fried chicken and cigarettes.

Will the Marlboro man soon be replaced by a suicide bomber?