Softa Bottling Company Limited (SBCL) has launched Mecca Cola onto the Kenyan market. The soft drink, which has grown in popularity this year, is a controversial addition to the crowded global soft drinks market.
The company hopes that demand for the drink, named after Islam's Holiest City Mecca, and whose bottles bear the slogan No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment, will soar among Kenyan Muslims as well as in neighbouring Somalia and Ethiopia. The launch has been strategically timed to coincide with the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan and Christmas festivities.
Softa Bottlers chief executive Peter Kuguru claims that the beverage is a refreshing drink that will revolutionise the soft drink market and will be sold at a pocket friendly price. He added that Mecca Cola aims to improve the workings of the soft drink market by offering customers a valuable alternative.
Other soft drink manufacturers will be watching the launch with interest. The introduction of Mecca Cola in West Africa sent Coca-Cola sales tumbling by up to 40 per cent in states with strong Muslim populations such as Senegal and Mali.
Coca-Cola has for decades held the number one position in the Kenyan cola market. It has also begun to diversify into the lucrative bottled water market segment.
Recently, Softa Bottlers expanded its Nairobi plant, raising its production capacity to 20,000 cases of soda per day. An ongoing 10-year expansion plan includes the establishment of eight Softa factories in Kenya and the East African region.
Mecca Cola, was launched in November 2002. The French founder, Tawfik Mathiouthi, has been quoted on BBC News Online as saying that the product is about combating "America's imperialism and Zionism by providing a substitute for American goods".