This month International Press Agency Reuters reported that the market for alcoholic drinks is booming in the Muslim Gulf. Alcohol producers like Heineken and Diageo are trying to generate interest for their products in the Gulf region using sports sponsorship, by targeting the richer denizens and by introducing non-alcohol alternatives.

While Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol and most Gulf states therefore legally prohibit drinking in public, according to international alcohol producers are attracted to the Gulf region because of the large amount of young people and the large community of expatriates.

It’s not necessarily the alcoholic products that expand the market share of alcohol producers in the North African and Middle Eastern market. Heineken points to their mix of drinks for their success in these markets. Besides alcoholic beverages it’s their malt substitutes for beer that are very popular among youths. Other advantageous factors are that the company has little competition and a growing pool of consumers thanks to an expanding amount of expatriates.

Another example of alcohol producers penetrating new markets is found in the Dubai airport. The United Arab Emirates are often seen as one of the most liberal Gulf states. Alcohol is available to foreign residents with a permit as well as in licensed hotels and pubs. Since last December however, travelers can quench their thirst at Diageo’s luxury spirits, fine wine and champagne sampling area at Dubai airport. Diageo is reported to be in talks currently about a comparable presence in the new Quatar airport.

According to Diageo booked a 16 percent rise in net sales in the Middle East and North African region. The company expects sales to double in this region within five years. The Gulf region accounts for 44 percent of Diagio’s sales in this region with local top markets beeing the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon.

Another way that it is apparent that alcholproducers are targetting the Gulf is that Heineken reports that it’s sponsorship of European football has raised it’s profile lately. According to Heineken the UEFA Champions League is popular all around the world and because of this it is being used to reach customers in the Middle East.

Another reason for alcohol producers to target the Gulf is that the region has become popular for hosting big sports events such as Formula One, tennis, golf and horse racing. Point in case is Quatar which is getting ready to host the 2022 soccer world cup and is forced to ponder the question how to deal with the masses of soccer fans that like to drink while watching the match. One of the solutions that has allready been offered are special fan zones around stadiums where alcohol would be available during the games.

Still the problem remains that as it is allready local papers are filled with news about tourists and expatriates that are thrown into jail for public drunkenness. It will be interesting, to say the least, how the influx of alcohol and alcohol consumers will go down in the Middle East.

Source: 03/10/11

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