Iranian zamzam-Cola replaced U.S. Coca-Cola.

TEHRAN, August 27 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) – The fizzy Iranian soft drink “Zam Zam Cola” could quench the thirst of the two million Muslim faithful expected next February on their annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest spot Makkah, following a Saudi boycott of U.S. cola giants Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, news agencies reported Tuesday, August 27, 2002.

“Two million pilgrims are going to come to Makkah. We have just established ourselves in Saudi Arabia, where we delivered Saturday 300,000 bottles, and we hope that during the next Hajj (pilgrimage) the faithful will refresh themselves with our products”, Zam Zam’s director Ahmad-Haddad Moghaddam told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Asked about the opening in the Saudi market, Moghaddam said: “We seized on the opportunity, since U.S. products are being boycotted by Saudis,” as well as other Gulf states in protest over the U.S. government’s support for Israel during the 23-month Palestinian Intifada.

“But I would not chalk up our success to political matters. It is because of the quality of our products, the taste of our drinks, comparable to the world’s best products, which also meet international health standards,” he said.

His company’s first shipments arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

Zam Zam, named after Makkah’s Zamzam holy spring water, was founded in 1954 and was for a long time the Iranian partner of Pepsi Cola until their contract was terminated after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The company was taken over by the Foundation of Dispossessed, a powerful state charity run by conservative clerics and immune to oversight from parliament.

Zam Zam employs 7,780 people in its 16 factories, the main ones being in Tehran and the northeastern city of Mashhad. Its annual turnover is 162 million dollars.

Besides Saudi Arabia, the Iranian soft drink company is now shipping its fizzy beverages to Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It will soon export its carbonated drinks to Lebanon, Syria and Denmark, which will be its first European client.

Zam Zam’s main market, however, remains the home market in Iran where it competes for the soft drink crown with the more pricey Coca Cola, imported from Dubai, and “Noushab”, the former official partner of Coca Cola in Iran before the two firms became bogged down in legal disputes.

Iran’s demand for soda drinks has increased by 14 percent per year.

Key cola ingredients are imported from Germany. “It is the most coveted product in Iran”, said Moghaddam.

Zam Zam produces 800 million liters of drinks in small and big bottles per year, including “Dugh”, a traditional Iranian drink consisting of yogurt and water.

Zam Zam also produces 300 million bottles of non-alcoholic “Islamic beer” annually, in a country where consumption of alcohol is forbidden and carries the punishment of a public lashing.

Moghaddam does not rule out the possibility that Zam Zam could one day be sold in America.

“One day we’ll get there,” he said wistfully.