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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Heineken targets Muslim markets
Fayrouz comes in a number of fruit flavours
Dutch brewing giant Heineken has said it plans to launch a non-alcoholic malt drink in Muslim markets around the world.

The fruit-flavoured beverage, Fayrouz, is already popular in Egypt and has been certified halal by Al Azhar, a leading Sunni Islam religious institution.

Now Heineken has said it could use its global marketing muscle to launch Fayrouz in the Indian sub-continent and Muslim communities in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

"Those are large communities and if we come with a serious product, I am sure this will appeal to them," said Heineken chief executive Thony Ruys.

Flat sales

"We are learning from the experiences in Egypt and then we can go for a bigger launch," he added.

Heineken acquired Fayrouz last year when it took over Egypt's only brewery, Al Harham Beverages Co (ABC), in a $280m deal.

No alcohol is produced during Farouz's manufacture - unlike other non-alcoholic beers - making it suitable for observant Muslims.

Last month, Heineken shocked financial markets when it said it expected its first half profits to be flat.

It said sales of its core Heineken and Amstel pilsner brands stalled due to a global economic downturn, the war in Iraq and the SARS virus in Asia.


But its sales warning was in sharp contrast to Belgian rival Interbrew, which forecast "meaningful" growth for 2003.

UK brewer Scottish & Newcastle said trade was picking up in its key markets, France and Russia.

But Mr Ruys stressed the reason for July's warning was an over-optimistic 7% growth target in the US market, which it knew it could not meet.

Premium beer served in bars and restaurants, was harder hit by economic factors than brands that have a higher proportion of home consumption.

Heineken is also facing renewed competition from US giant Anheuser-Busch.

The maker of Budweiser has hit back at the growth of export beers in the US with a new product, Anheuser World Select, a homegrown a continental-style pilsner.

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