Mojo’s Gaza aid also rockets its sales

Originally published: The Business Standard – Front page lead 12 March 2024

At precisely 5:32pm on 11 March Monday, a remarkable sight unfolded: Tk68,208 poured into Mojo’s coffers – a sum equating to Tk1 from each bottle sold. This figure surged to Tk87,024 within a single hour by 6:24pm, as reported on Akij Venture’s website,

This flurry of transactions represents nothing short of astonishing: in just 52 minutes, a staggering 18,816 bottles or units of Mojo were sold.

The financial frenzy is not merely a testament to Mojo’s allure as a refreshing beverage; rather, it underscores the brand’s manoeuvring ability to tap into the emotions of Bangladesh’s Muslim-majority populace.

Mojo, a local cola drink brand owned by Akij Foods and Beverage, utilised the sentiment of solidarity among Bangladeshis towards Palestine. By pledging a taka for each bottle sold to the Palestine fund, Mojo struck a chord with consumers.

“We are overwhelmed with responses from consumers following the launch of the campaign. Our sales have more than doubled compared to before the Israel-Gaza conflict,” says Md Maidul Islam, chief marketing officer of Akij Food.

He reveals that Mojo’s sales have surged by 130%-140% since the onset of the conflict in the Middle East. As a result, Mojo’s market share in the cola segment has soared to 35%, a significant increase of at least 6 percentage points from before the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Amount collected in the campaign

Maidul says they have contributed Tk1.5 crore for the Palestinians affected by the war as of 2 January. Of this, Tk1 crore was contributed from the company’s fund, while Tk50 lakh was derived from Mojo sales.

“As of 8 March, an additional Tk56 lakh from Mojo sales has been earmarked for donation and is awaiting transfer to support Palestinian causes,” he confirms.

On 2 January, Sk Shamim Uddin, chairman of Akij Venture, presented a cheque of Tk50 lakh from the funds deposited in the “Mojo Support Palestine Campaign” to the Palestinian ambassador in Dhaka.

“We are channelling the funds through select agencies in Qatar and Turkey that specialise in aid distribution for Palestinians,” says Maidul of Akij Food.

Regarding the shortage of dollars in Bangladesh and the transfer of funds, he explains that efforts are being made to remit the money in Qatari or Turkish currencies as alternatives.

Local cola feels righteous

For years, Bangladeshis have reached for either Pepsi or Coca-Cola for carbonated drinks. However, with the eruption of Israel’s conflict in Gaza, numerous Bangladeshi consumers have turned to social media to express solidarity with Palestine by boycotting Western-made products and franchises perceived to have ties with Israel.

Kabir Hossain, 40, proprietor of a grocery shop on Dilu Road in New Eskaton, has rejected discounted offers from wholesalers for beverages manufactured by Pepsico and Coca-Cola. While such offers, typically providing five to seven extra bottles per case, are common during winter, the current geopolitical crisis has given them added significance.

Kabir is just one participant in the boycott movement aimed at expressing solidarity with Palestine.

“People are now opting for Mojo, Daily Cola, and Uro Cola instead of Coke and Pepsi…Until Israel halts its atrocities, I refuse to stock products that support Israel,” remarks Kabir.

In a parallel move, various restaurants nationwide have announced their decision to cease serving beverages from PepsiCo and Coca-Cola following Israel’s aggressive actions against Palestinians.

Additionally, mosques across the country have hung banners, urging people to reject Western products such as Coke and Pepsi while endorsing Mojo.

“Special announcement… American Burger Dhanmondi has decided to remove Coca-Cola and Pepsi from the menu,” reads a post on a city restaurant’s social media platform – a notable decision considering the establishment’s American branding.

“Our customers are pleased with our decision. We now serve Daily Cola, a locally made product. Feedback on local cola has been overwhelmingly positive. I encourage everyone to try the local brand,” remarks Omar Faruk, owner of the burger joint.

“Are you contributing to the genocide in Palestine? Let’s boycott Pepsi and Coca-Cola and drink Mojo. Let’s not fund the war against Muslims,” reads another announcement by a restaurant in the capital’s Banasree area.

These actions reflect the solidarity of these businesses with Palestine amid the Israel-Gaza conflict as well as a savvy marketing strategy.

In this context, local soft drinks have gained prominence. But are they capitalising on the situation?

Kamruzzaman Kamal, marketing director of PRAN-RFL Group, producer of Maxx Cola, doesn’t anticipate the ongoing boycott movement to have a significant impact.

“Issues are transient – people discard them once they pass,” he remarks.

Kamal says their focus is not on succumbing to short-term influences tied to fleeting sentiments. Instead, they aim “to earn consumer trust based on product quality”.

“We believe brands should be devoid of colour or religion. Our products are for everyone,” Kamal states, underscoring their concern for the Palestine-Israel conflict.

“Whether it’s Israel-Palestine, Russia-Ukraine, or any other conflict, PRAN-RFL Group advocates for peace. We oppose war and violence,” he adds.

Discussing their position in the carbonated beverage industry, Kamal highlights that PRAN is not solely a cola vendor. “We are a consumer lifestyle brand, offering a range of products. Cola is just one part of our beverage portfolio.

“Nevertheless, our team consistently works to market Maxx Cola innovatively and expand our sales nationwide.”

the marketing director says, “At the end of the day, manufacturers of Coke and Pepsi in the country are our industry colleagues. They are facing difficulties now. Someday, we may face similar challenges.”

Non-alcoholic beverage market in Bangladesh

The non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverage market in Bangladesh witnessed substantial growth, with a compound annual rate of 10% from 2019 to 2022, as reported by Turkish associate Coca-Cola İçecek.

In February, Coca-Cola İçecek announced its acquisition of Coca-Cola’s Bangladesh division for $130 million, anticipating a further increase in growth rate to 12% for the 2023-2032 period.

By 2032, the annual demand for ready-to-drink non-alcoholic beverages is projected to reach nearly 72 crore units, a significant increase from the 41 crore units in 2022.

Market research conducted by beverage marketers indicate that before the Israel-Hamas war, Coca-Cola commanded a leading position in the cola market segment, capturing over 42% share of the estimated Tk1,800 crore market.

However, its white sparkling drink, Sprite, trails behind with approximately 22%-23% market share, while Pepsico’s 7 Up dominates with a 40% market share in the Tk2,700-2,800 crore segment.

Also, Coca-Cola’s orange soda, Fanta, significantly lags behind its competitor, Mirinda, in the smaller market segment estimated to be worth Tk350 crore annually.

Coca-Cola İçecek highlighted Coca-Cola’s success in strengthening its competitive position in Bangladesh, achieving market leadership with over 45% share of the value of all sparkling beverages sold in the country in 2023.

Local contenders in the carbonated soft drinks market, including Akij, Partex, Pran, and Meghna, have also made significant strides, contributing to the market’s estimated annual value of Tk5,000 crore.