Aurora Magazine

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Cola Next Rides the Boycott

What's next for Cola Next?
Updated 09 Jul, 2024 11:22am

For the past eight months, Pakistan’s social media sphere has been abuzz with people delighting in their discovery of an appetising local carbonated beverage – Cola Next. It seems to have mushroomed in the general periphery almost overnight, from supermarkets to restaurants and wedding banquets.

According to Alamgir Janjua, GM, Marketing at the Mezan Group, this response has been a long time coming as the group has been working to build the brand diligently for eight years.

“When Cola Next launched in 2016, I remember there was a lot of negativity from the Pakistani market because we were a Pakistani brand. It was almost as if some people were rooting for us to fail,” recalls Janjua.

He is also of the opinion that most Pakistanis tend to nurse the opinion that local products do not measure up to the standards set by imported products.

“I believed in our product from the very first day I joined Mezan, because I had faith in our superior taste and recognised it was only a matter of time before the Pakistani people would realise the same.” Janjua stresses the importance of having a robust R&D department at Cola Next – one that has been successful in creating beverages that are tailored to local consumers without outright replicating recipes that already exist in the market.

The Mezan Beverages division, a division of the Mezan Group best known for their cooking oil, was established to achieve the goal of providing consumers with an array of locally produced, quality beverages. Their current portfolio includes Cola Next, Fizup Next, Rango Next, Lychee Next, Anaar Next, Dare Next, Green Soda Next and Storm. Janjua firmly believes that the power to choose which beverage to purchase should reside with the consumer, which is why being stocked at shops throughout Pakistan is so important. It allows for variety and guarantees all products an equal chance.

Cola Next, although still a relatively smaller player, has been able to avoid efforts by its bigger competitors to thwart its existence by approaching smaller markets first. Janjua explains that by situating the beverage manufacturing plant in Lahore, they were able to target the smaller cities that surrounded Lahore and Islamabad and establish a steady consumer base. As a result, Cola Next gained a substantial following in the adjoining cities and others like Multan and Gujranwala.

Cola Next’s production plant itself is rather unique in that all processes are completely automated. Their state-of-the-art machinery allows for minimal human intervention, with workers only operating the machines. The plant is powered by solar energy, allowing them to cut back on exorbitant electricity costs.

Following the rapid circulation of the BDS movement’s economic boycott list, the name Cola Next was murmured as a suitable local alternative in social circles and on social media. Soon the wave caught on, with people asking for Cola Next at restaurants and refusing to indulge in non-local varieties. Months later, Cola Next is broadening their consumer base every day, selling out in shops and struggling to meet the overwhelming demand due to frequently exceeding their production capacity. “We have to find a way to keep up with demand and are in talks to expand our production lines.”

Cola Next’s tagline has evolved from “Level Barha, Next Pe Aa” to “Kyun Ke Cola Next Hai Pakistani” following the boycott and the conscious movement to support Pakistani brands.

Their most recent campaign stars Hamza Ali Abbasi, who represents “strong moral values and is a staunch Pakistani,” according to Janjua.

Previously, Cola Next has worked with figures like Saba Qamar, Urwa Hocane, Humayun Saeed, Nargis Fakhri and Esra Bilgiç. The group has invested heavily in their advertising spend through electronic media, social media and OOH. “The idea is that wherever you go or whatever media you frequently tune in to, be it radio, TV or social media, we hope to constantly remind you that we exist.”

Janjua beams when he explains how earlier, members of his team would reach out to restaurants to establish partnerships with them, compared to the present, when they are receiving a plethora of phone calls every day from restaurants clamouring to partner with them. “This shows that even restaurants care about accommodating the demands of consumers.”

For Cola Next, the future holds more opportunities for experimentation, especially regarding expanding their range of fruity flavours and launching a zero-sugar cola variant.

Janjua wholeheartedly believes that the beverage industry has changed for the better in Pakistan. “For the first time, the hold the two cola giants have maintained for decades is weakening.” He reckons Cola Next’s consistency and commitment will ensure they continue to do well even if the boycott wanes because consumers are comparatively more vocal about what they want and less inclined to settle for something just for the convenience it offers.

“People are boycotting as a matter of principle and in the event that they stop doing so, I am certain they will still prefer to support local companies over international ones.”

Janjua views the boycott as a kind of springboard for encouraging Pakistanis to invest in their own country and give preference to local products. “To keep this up and really thrive in the long run, Pakistani brands will need to maintain their quality, stay relatively affordable and invest in marketing. Brands looking to make a few quick bucks during the boycott will not make it as their efforts are unlikely to be sustainable.”