x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Vimto hits a purple patch in Gulf

The growing popularity of Vimto cordial in the region has boosted sales for its brand owner Nichols, based in the UK, and its regional distributor Aujan Industries.

The growing popularity of Vimto cordial in the region has boosted sales for its brand owner Nichols, based in the UK, and its regional distributor Aujan Industries.

Aujan, based in Saudi Arabia, is expecting this year's sales to be 20 per cent higher than the US$750 million (Dh2.75bn) in revenues it earned last year, said its chairman Sheikh Adel Aujan.

And Nichols, the beverages retailer that created Vimto, is expecting this year's sales to be up by 15 per cent.

John Nichols, the chairman of the company and grandson of its founder, said revenues in the first half were boosted by the earlier Ramadan season.

"The second half of the year is never as good for us in the UK, or for the business in total," Mr Nichols said during his annual visit to Dubai this week.

"But we will be ahead significantly from last year … there is growth here, there is growth in quite a few of the African countries that we deal with, and growth in the UK and Europe to a certain extent."

Nichols's pre-tax profits in the first six months of this year were up by 39 per cent on the same period last year.

The company's first-half pre-tax sales were up about 17.6 per cent to £44.2 million (Dh255.9m) from £37.5m in the same period last year. But its international sales growth was more than double that, at 38.6 per cent, driven by sales in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Nichols's and Aujan's sales are helped by Vimto's status as the traditional drink for those breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Last year, Aujan sold about 20 million bottles of the purple cordial, the sugar content of which gives an energy boost after a day of fasting.

"Someone here in their 60s, definitely from when they were six years old, they grew up on Vimto," said Sheikh Aujan. "It's an acquired traditional taste that goes from generation to generation."

The cordial, a mixture of blackcurrant, raspberry and undisclosed ingredients, has been sold in the region for more than 80 years. But Mr Nichols said both companies had increased their marketing budget to build up the brand and attract more consumers.

"Every year there is more advertising and marketing, and the brand grows accordingly," he said.

And Nichols is setting its sights on Egypt and Libya in conjunction with Aujan. Other targets include Iraq and Iran, where Aujan already has a plant.

"While the GCC markets are growing, and growing well, the big expansion will be in these newer markets," said Sheikh Aujan.

aligaya@thenational.ae