20 April 2003
I was restocking Coca-Cola this weekend to the dismay of health-care professionals, dentists, indeed everyone except the supermarket, I go through an amazing quantity of the stuff when I had the bright idea of checking out the competition. I don't mean Pepsi or Royal Crown; I'm familiar with them, and I grab a bottle of RC now and then to revisit my younger days, when a carton of RC was the favored promotional giveaway by the local Top 40 station and I was desperate for free stuff. (Besides, She Who Is Not To Be Named...but never mind about that.) What I mean are the new Muslim-oriented knockoffs, conceived (I presume) in response to the opening of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Israel, both of which promise to kick in some of their receipts to, um, causes of interest to their customers. Not being particularly willing to import any of this stuff, I settled for browsing their Web sites.
Qibla-Cola, which pledges on every bottle "10% of profit to 3rd world causes", may seek to position itself as the anti-Coke, but it emulates the Coke model almost entirely: in addition to the flagship brand, there are Qibla 5 (Sprite), Qibla Fantasy (Fanta Orange), and Qibla Water (Dasani), and diet versions of all but the latter. No Qibla al-Pibb yet, but give them time. The Qiblas come in 500ml and two-liter bottles; cans are promised soon. Qibla-Cola's ad flyer (a two-meg PDF file, which strikes me as overkill) proclaims "Time to make a choice!" and presents the slogan: "Liberate your taste." Almost amusing, really.
On the other hand, Mecca-Cola is deadly serious. How serious? Their slogan is in French: "Ne buvez plus idiot, buvez engagé!" And, indeed, the parent company is called Mecca-Cola Beverages France. (They're hiring, incidentally.) Even the English-language pages contain the French slogan, translated as "No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment!" Mecca-Cola kicks in 20 percent of net profit to its causes, half to "Palestinian childhood" (does this include Semtex?) and half to local NGOs in its distribution areas. In a bizarrely Cokelike gesture, their signature product is called Mecca-Cola Classic.
I have, of course, no idea how these concoctions taste, but I suspect they're at least potable, perhaps on par with, say, budget-priced Wal-Mart knockoffs. And it's probably a Good Thing to see Muslim capitalism at work, if only because there are going to be imams here and there who are appalled by the whole concept. Still, pouring money into Palestine is rather like well, drink enough cola, regardless of brand, and the metaphor becomes obvious.