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Boycott battle meets cola wars

By CNN's Jim Bittermann

Mecca-Cola is available in "classic," orange and other flavours, according to the company's Web site

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CNN's Jim Bittermann takes a look at new controversial soft drink produced in France called 'Mecca Cola' (November 6)
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- The United States may be making preparations for war, but across the Middle East it is already losing on the brand battlefields.

Because of Washington's foreign policy, some consumers are boycotting American products from soap to sneakers.

Instead, they are turning to local equivalents, like Zam Zam cola instead of Coke and Pepsi.

Now a French Tunisian has opened up a second front in what has turned into a cola war -- by producing a drink named Mecca Cola mainly for European markets.

The new brand, which bears a striking resemblance to Coca-Cola, is specifically intended to make a political statement.

Its producers promise that 10 percent of profits will go to Palestinian causes.

"No more drinking stupid," its label reads in French. "Drink with commitment."

The creator of Mecca Cola, prominent French political activist Tawfiq Mathlouthi, claims the drink is not competion for Coke and that his campaign is not anti-American.

Instead, he says, each bottle sold is a protest against the Bush administration's foreign policy.

"We love America opened to the world," Mathlouthi says. "We don't like this America, very dangerous and very strong against others."

After a week of production, Mathlouthi says he has shipped 160,000 bottles and that he expects to ship the same number this week.

He says he hopes sales will hit a million during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Buyers seem to divide between those interested in pop politics or just the latest fad.

Meanwhile, some religious fundamentalists object to the use of the name of the Muslim holy city on a soft drink.

There is no indication Mecca Cola or any other boycott product will do long-term harm to American multi-nationals.

But some U.S. manufacturers admit the boycott is having an impact on sales.

And no one denies how easy it is for consumers to express their politics by simply switching brands.

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