First Published: 2003-08-28

 
Watch out for Kufa Cola
 

Homegrown Iraqi cola battling tough post-war competition, determined to win.

 

Middle East Online

By Selim Saheb Ettaba - KUFA, Iraq

The Cola war

Launched six months before the war, homegrown Kufa Cola, is facing stiff competition in a market inundated with better-known soft-drink brands since coalition forces invaded the country in March.

Named after the Iraqi holy city of Kufa and owned by one of the country's wealthiest Shiite Muslim families, however, Kufa is determined to win the popularity war.

Packaged exclusively in cans, which are more heat-resistant but dearer than the bottles used by rivals, the war drastically curtailed Kufa output.

"We produced more than 350,000 cases (each containing 24 cans) before the war and we stored them," says Raid Najjah Kubba, at 26, general manager of the drinks factory of 150 workers.

"At the start of the war, the American army used our factory as a base for its operations. They stayed for more than two weeks and took 7,000 cases from storage, as well as our trucks.

"We filed a compensation claim asking for more than 250,000 dollars," he adds.

But, although there has been no reimbursement from the US military, the businessman is delighted to have them as customers.

"They like it so much. We sell them more than 100 cases a week, especially the orange," he says.

Initial hopes for a partnership deal with Pepsi Cola -- the only cola producer allowed in Iraq after Arabs boycotted Coca Cola in the mid-1960s for building a factory in Israel -- collapsed in the wake of UN sanctions imposed following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But since Kubba took over in 1998 and the product was named Kufa, after the city where the first Shiite imam, Ali established his capital before being killed in 661, it has towed a firmly Iraqi line.

"We took the name Kufa because we are close to Kufa and we belong to this city," said Kubba. His uncle, chairman of the family empire, which includes a bank, clothes shop and agriculture industry, was born here.

He insists that the name was not chosen to exploit the anti-American boycott, like Zam-Zam Cola in Iran, or more recently, Mecca Cola.

As well as cola, the factory produces Kufa orange, Kufa seven up, Kufa soda and diet drinks.

The liquid concentrate comes from Lebanon, the cans from Jordan and the water from the nearby Euphrates river, Kubba says.

"We sell more than 10,000 cases per day," he says, adding that it's impossible to keep up with nationwide demand.

But, while the red Kufa cans are on widely seen in Iraq's central cities of Najaf, Kufa and Karbala, they face stiff competition in the capital.

An influx of imported colas has flooded into the country since the UN Security Council lifted 13 years of economic sanctions and the US-led coalition scrapped tariffs on most goods until the end of the year to boost the shattered economy.

"Not many people buy them, because they are more expensive than the bottles," says Karim Hashim, 40, who sells drinks in Sadr City, Baghdad's Shiite quarter named after the late Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Sadr.

"The best is Saudi Pepsi because it's very strong," says 27-year-old Riad Najim Abdullah, in the neighbouring Shiite quarter of Jamila.

Kufa brand recognition has a long way to go in the capital.

"I didn't know that it was an Iraqi product," admits Abdullah.

But Khalid Odat, a 31-year-old grocer in Jamila, predicts a rosy future for Kufa.

"It's popular here thanks to its sacred name, like Sadr and because it tastes stronger," he said, a portrait of Ayatollah Sadr hanging on the wall behind him.

Not to mention that it benefits from one essential asset as an Iraqi product: "It lasts a long time in the sun."

 

Calm reigns over Gaza amid celebrations

US rules out coordination with Syria on targeting jihadists

New Turkey PM leaves successor troubled legacy

Algeria president sacks Belkhadem

Saudi Arabia could earn $8.5 billion from Mecca pilgrimage

US spy agencies face difficult task in Syria

Saudi Arabia jails 18 militants on terror charges

Gazans breathe sigh of relief

Litany of horrors becomes regular fixture in jihadist-held Syria

Iraq forces mass for onslaught on jihadist siege of Amerli

Doha offers help to rebuild Gaza

Iran alters Arak heavy water reactor over Western worries

Palestinians ‘reach’ long-term Gaza truce with Israel

Barzani: Iran provided us with weapons

US to track jihadists in Syria with spy planes

Top Iran official in Saudi to repair strained ties

Drums of war are beating anew on Capitol Hill

Israel air raid in Gaza kills two Palestinians

Deadly bus tragedy in Egypt

Car bomb rips through Baghdad intersection

Shebab flee Somalia strategic town in latest advance of African troops

South Sudan warring leaders sign fresh ceasefire deal

Who’s funding extremists? Qatar struggles to clean up tarnished image

Abadi calls on militias to come under Iraq state control

Nile dam row at heart of talks in Sudan

Ansar Sharia calls for jihadist unity in Libya

No let-up in Gaza war as Egypt raises new truce proposal

Thousands march in support of Yemen President’s call for national unity

Syria reaches out to former foes in fight against ‘terrorism’

Libya parliament names new army chief

Egypt warns only disarmament could spare Libya from intervention

Egypt offers new Gaza ceasefire

Iran to Israel: we will arm Palestinians

American held hostage for 22 months in Syria freed

Iraq calls for global support in fighting jihadists

Iran bolsters arsenal with new drones and missiles

Arab ministers discuss ‘rise of extremism’ in Saudi Arabia

In Jordan, students stay home as teachers strike

Iran ‘shoots down’ Israel drone near Natanz nuclear site

Netanyahu vows to maintain Israel offensive in Gaza ‘as long as necessary’

Libya neighbours meet in Egypt amid serious concerns

Zarif meets Ashton in September to discuss framework for renewed talks

‘Islamic State’ jihadists enter Syria military airport for first time

Huthi intentions for war become obvious as talks collapse in Yemen

Signs of militia coup as Islamists openly defy Libya parliament