The Khaleeji Love Story in a Bottle
By: Safa M. Qureshi/Arab America Contributing Writer
What is Vimto?
One unexpected invention from Northern England has won over markets in the Middle East. Vimto is a popular soft drink in the Gulf Arab States made from grapes, raspberries, blackcurrants, and of course sugar… lots and lots of sugar. Outside of the UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE are the biggest consumers of Vimto in the world.
History of Vimto
The drink was invented in 1908 by a soap factory manager-turned-herbalist, John Noel Nichols, in Manchester, England. He created a health tonic that would supposedly give the consumer “vim and vigor”, which is how the name came to be Vimtonic. This was later shortened to Vimto.
In the early 1920s, Richard Goodsir, a friend of John Noel Nichols, took a few samples of Vimto to India with him for local bottling plants to try out. There was a readymade market on hand in the form of British troops, but the Indian population also developed a liking for Vimto and its popularity soon spread to neighboring parts of the British Empire, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Burma (now Myanmar).
When Indians began flocking to the Gulf to take up clerical jobs, naturally many of them took some Vimto with them, which is how Abdulla Aujan & Brothers in Saudi Arabia came upon it in 1928. Vimto was first produced in a factory in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.
Is it Really Ramadan Without Vimto?
There are a few things that we always associate with Ramadan, such as dates, sumptuous iftar meals with family, and the sound of the Taraweeh prayers. But, wait, that’s not it – there’s the fruity, burgundy-colored drink called Vimto. Vimto is now synonymous with Ramadan.
Somewhere along the way, the fruity drink became a symbol of Ramadan, just as turkey is a symbol of Thanksgiving. So why has Vimto become so popular during Ramadan? For a lot of people, the sugary drink provides the perfect energy boost after a long day of fasting.
While this drink is available all year round, during Ramadan, it is promoted at a whole different level. Billboards and ads are visible all around the country and most supermarkets bring out crates of Vimto closer to the entrance.
P.S. The recipe for Vimto produced in the Middle East contains date paste.
Bloomingdales Dubai has previously offered personalized bottles of Vimto. Bloomingdales has sold the beverage in their Middle East stores (Dubai and Kuwait) back in Ramadan of 2017. Bloomingdales was selling a bottle studded with Swarovski crystals spelling out your name for up to Dhs200. As the buyer, you would also get a limited edition gold and burgundy-colored gift box.
Listed below are some of Bloomingdale’s previous order options:
Regular Vimto bottle with the customized name: AED50/KD4
Regular Vimto bottle with Swarovski customized name: AED100/KD8
Regular Vimto bottle with full Swarovski customization: AED200/KD16
Vimto Mini Box (12 bottles): AED60/KD5
Vimto Mini with customized initials (12 bottles): AED120/KD10
Vimto Mini with initial customized by Swarovski (12 bottles): AED180/KD15
And if your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, McDonald’s Arabia does a Vimto McFizz for Dhs8.
According to Mohammed Almarri, a student in the UAE, “It [Vimto] hasn’t changed. The design and the branding have been the same for [112 years]. Even our great grandfathers use to drink it”.
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