First liberation and now first taste of Pepsi for Iraqis

NEW YORK - Iraqis may lack peace and stability, but they will soon have their first taste of Pepsi Cola in more than 10 years as PepsiCo International signs an agreement to produce the cola in the war-torn state.

Pepsi has not been available since sanctions barred the US from trading with Iraq in 1990, following the country's invasion of neighbouring Kuwait -- although the brand has still had a presence of sorts in the country with Iraqi vendors using old Pepsi bottles to sell a local homemade cola.

Pepsi has inked a deal with the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company, the largest soft drink bottler in Iraq. It will produce Pepsi Cola, 7-Up and Miranda to be distributed in central Iraq, an area with a population of more than 10m. It promises to create some 2,000 new jobs in the country, which is currently in turmoil following the invasion by coalition forces and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

The Baghdad Soft Drinks Company plans to back Pepsi's relaunch with what it described as an extensive marketing campaign and new bottle designs. It worked in partnership with PepsiCo between 1984 and 1990, when sanctions were introduced.

Saad Abdul-Latif, president of the Middle East/Africa region of PepsiCo International, said: "We're very fortunate to again be working in partnership with Baghdad Soft Drinks Company, which has the experience, infrastructure and local knowledge to effectively serve the needs of Iraqi consumers."

Pepsi first became available in Iraq in 1950 and grew to be one of the cola brand's largest markets in the Middle East.

Hamid Jassim, managing director of Baghdad Soft Drinks Company, said: "We fully expect that in time the Pepsi brands will be even more popular among Iraqis than they have been in the past, particularly as prospects for stability and economic growth improve."

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