Story behind Palestine Cola: The Pepsi and Coca-Cola rival that everyone wants to buy

Swedish company plans Middle East launch this year

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Read more: Coca-Cola and Pepsi rival Palestine Drinks hits multimillion sales ahead of global push

Palestine Drinks, a new soft drink brand producing an alternative to Coca-Cola and Pepsi, has seen sales of its cola product reach four million cans in just under two months.

Founded by three brothers of Palestinian descent in Malmo, Sweden, demand for the company's first product Palestine Cola has surged since The National featured their story this week, particularly in East Asia.

All of its sales to date have been in Europe and the plan is to bring Palestine Cola to a global audience, starting with the US and Canada, before coming to the Middle East.

As well as offering a new, impactful brand for consumers, profit from the sales of Palestine Cola will go to charities working in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Here, The National takes a look at the story behind the brand that everyone wants.

How did Palestine Cola start?

Hussein, Mohammed and Ahmad Hassoun decided to create an alternative to Pepsi and Coca-Cola after noticing restaurants and shops were dominated by the two US brands.

The initiative to start the company was taken by Hussein, who felt a lot of restaurants in Sweden and Europe did not want to sell the drinks as they are among global brands being boycotted by consumers due to maintaining business links with Israel amid the continuing Gaza war.

The brothers chose the soft drinks business because they wanted to produce something that was also profitable.

They have invested just under $50,000 in their operation and sought advice from a consultant in Europe with vast experience in the drinks industry.

Where is Palestine Cola available?

Palestine Cola is distributed through wholesalers and businesses in Sweden. It is also on sale in Denmark and Finland through local distributors.

The company says it will focus on the European market for now, with plans to launch in the US and Canada next, then the Middle East.

When will Palestine Cola be available in the UAE?

Palestine Drinks said interest from the UAE was particularly strong, with more than 10 companies wanting to be distributors and also help with production.

The plan for the Middle East is to have a local production plant in the region that will produce and sell cans with Arabic labels, which will take “three to four months”, the company said.

What’s the story behind the can’s design?

The distinctive Palestine Cola cans feature historic symbols of Palestine, starting with the olive branches on the body. The olive tree is a deeply ingrained symbol of Palestinian national identity, while also being an important source of income for thousands of families.

The base of the can features a Palestinian keffiyeh design. The checked scarf was worn predominately by farm workers as a protection from the Sun but became a symbol of protest during the 1936-1939 Arab revolt when Palestinians rose up against British rule.

The words “liberty for everyone” are written on the side of the can, underlining the founders' message that regardless of ethnicity and religion, everybody has the right to freedom.

Why is Palestine Drinks' parent company called Safad Food?

Palestine Drinks' parent company, Safad Food, is named after the town north of Lake Tiberias in the Galilee (in what was Palestine) from where the Hassouns' grandfather and uncles fled in 1948.

They were expelled to Lebanon and from there they moved to Sweden.

The family also plans to establish the Safad Foundation in Sweden, where funds raised through the company will be collated and donated to projects in Palestine.

Where does the money go?

The whole idea and purpose of Palestine Drinks is that money made through the venture will go to help Palestinians in need.

All profits from Palestine Drinks will go to charities working in Gaza and the West Bank through the Safad Foundation, which will be registered with Swedish authorities.

Palestine Drinks has started talking to organisations with a presence in the West Bank and Gaza to work with them initially before it establishes the foundation.

The brothers' long-term goal is to have their own organisation with Safad Foundation, with people on the ground, so they can control the entire chain and know first-hand that the funding is going where it should.

Will there be other flavours?

Initially, Palestine Drinks is only available in cola flavour, but recipes have been developed and seven new additional flavours will be launched shortly.

These are Palestine Cola Sugar Free, Palestine Orange, Palestine Lemon, Palestine Energy Drink, Palestine Ice Tea, Palestine Ice Coffee and Palestine Water.

There are also plans to develop a larger 1.5-litre bottle.

Where all have Coca-Cola and Pepsi been boycotted?

Palestine Drinks is a by-product of consumers wanting to boycott brands over their perceived ties to Israel, leading to a surge in sales for local alternatives.

In November, Reuters reported that Turkey's Parliament removed Coca-Cola products from its restaurants over its alleged support for Israel.

In Lebanon, alternatives Jalloul and Zee Cola are proving more popular with locals, while Spiro Spathis has recorded a 350 per cent increase in sales in Egypt, local media reported.

In Bangladesh, Akij Food and Beverage pledged to donate a portion of each Mojo cola product sold to a Palestine fund. Sales surged by 140 per cent, increasing its soft drinks market share by 6 per cent, according to Bangladeshi media reports.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), a pro-Palestine human rights group launched in 2005, has criticised Coca-Cola for operating a factory in Israel's illegal settlement of Atarot in the occupied West Bank.

In 2018, BDS called for a boycott of Pepsi following its acquisition of SodaStream, an Israeli-based soft drinks manufacturer.

Updated: May 17, 2024, 3:47 AM