How Vimto became a Ramadan tradition
The holy month of Ramadan is a time steeped in tradition. For some, the emphasis is heavily on reflection, acceptance and generally trying to be better all-round human beings. For others, family plays a central part in the month as people bond during times of iftar and suhoor. But there is one curious there member of the Ramadan tradition in the Gulf that tends to raise an eyebrow, the region's favourite drink: Vimto.
Just as you're likely to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, or chocolate eggs at Easter, seemingly no iftar is complete without the sugary grape, blackcurrant, and raspberry flavoured drink that originally hails from Manchester.
First manufactured in Manchester back in 1908, "Vimtonic" - or Vimto as it was to be abbreviated to - The drink became popular in the UK that it spread to the likes of India and Sri Lanka when British troops stationed in the countries took samples of the concentrate on their tours of duty for a sweet reminder of home.
In 1927 the drink was then introduced into the Gulf by the enterprising Saudi Arabian company Abdulla Aujan & Brothers. where since then the success of the drink has taken the region by storm.
The success of the drink is thought to have come from a combination of its sweet, high-sugar taste that would give those adhering to the Ramadan fast an energy boost during iftar, and the introduction of the alcohol restrictions within Saudi Arabia.
The Vimto website tells us that since then the drink has enjoyed over 80 Ramadan celebrations within region with more than 31 million bottles sold in 2011. These numbers have surely increased by now. In fact, in December 2011 Coca-Cola bought approximately half of the Aujan Group's Middle East Vimto business for Dhs3.6 Billion.
As always, success comes with a side order of scandal and in 2016 Vimto became the target of various social media rumours, deeming it unsafe for consumption and going further to claim that it contains carcinogens.
Dubai Municipality’s Executive Director of the Department of Food Safety, Khalid Sharif Al Awadhi, stated the source of the rumours were questionable and the affair quickly blew over, according to a news story on Emirates 24/7.