Sperospats remains one of the examples worth pondering on the sudden volatility of markets against the backdrop of political events. (Shutterstock)
Not a few days after the start of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip after the operation "Al-Aqsa flood" on the seventh of October, major campaigns were launched in many Arab and Islamic countries to boycott international products that openly support the Israeli occupation, on top of these countries came Egypt, which witnessed a widespread popular boycott of many international brands, and calls to support local products and provide alternatives.
The boycott campaigns affected many famous products, led by the fast food chain "McDonald's", whose sales in Egypt collapsed by 70% during the months of October and November compared to last year, while the international chain of "Starbucks" cafes suffered a sharp decline in the demand for its products, prompting it to lay off a number of workers and employees in its various branches. Certainly, the famous international soft drink companies, led by "Coca-Cola" and "Pepsi", were at the top of the list of products affected by the boycott (1).
With calls to provide alternatives to international products, many local products appeared in the Egyptian markets in various sectors, which received popular support regardless of their level of quality, and among these local products was an ancient product that came from the distant past and sparked great controversy among Egyptians, supposedly offering a good alternative to international soft drinks, but he had a simple problem, which is that Egyptians cannot - often - pronounce his name!
100 years back
The Spyrospats factory was launched in 1920 in downtown Cairo, with the slogan "The Bee" (Spear Spites Facebook page)
"We've received hundreds of calls from everyone, we're getting orders from retail outlets and restaurant chains, everyone wants to get our product, we don't sleep more than two hours anymore. The phones don't stop, the momentum with Spats has reached its peak, we doubled production once, two and three."
(Morcos Talaat, marketing manager of "Sperospats" in a press interview (2))
In 1920, at a time when guarded Egypt was celebrating the birth of Crown Prince Farouk I, the only son of King Fouad and Queen Nazli, and with the distribution of gifts, free food and drinks to the general public to celebrate the birth of the country's next king, among these drinks was a soft drink that looks new in the Egyptian market called "spirospats", which was well received by the people.
At first glance, it sounds like a strange name, but it was not so for Egyptians at the time, as Egypt was teeming with foreign communities of various nationalities. It was not difficult for Egyptians to know that this name goes back to the Greek "Khawaja" "Sperospatis", who launched his first soft drink bearing his name in the Egyptian market. At the time, Al-Khawaja was over thirty-five years old, and he went through a journey of struggle that led him to produce this drink.
Spiro was born in 1885, and came to Egypt at the age of fifteen, and was educated in Egyptian schools, which included large numbers of foreigners of various nationalities. Before coming to Egypt, the Greek boy worked in honey apiaries on the local island of California, which will severely affect his future perceptions and make him put the "bee" logo on his soft drink forever. In 1909, the young man was working in the small factory owned by his uncle Nicole Spats for soft drinks, which made him absorb the workmanship and master all stages of beverage production, and gave him great experience in the field of manufacturing, and launched his personal ambition to create an innovative soft drink.
The greatest carbonated water!
"Sperospats. This man came to Egypt as young as Theo Khars, even younger than him, and he had one important and new idea: the necessity of producing a national Egyptian drink for soda water. "It used to be the habit of foreigners investing in beermaking, but there has always been a need for a popular Egyptian drink in line with the idea of banning alcohol in Islam."
(From the book "The Seven Khawajat" by the Egyptian writer Mustafa Obeid (3))
Since the launch of his factory in 1920 on Khaleej El Khor Street, off Emad El-Din Street in downtown Cairo, and with the distinctive "bee" logo that Spats insisted to be the official logo of the soft drink next to its name, the drink "Spyrospats" began to be very popular in the Egyptian market among all popular circles and foreign communities as well. With its variety of flavors, the drink became so popular in subsequent years that it won the King Farouk Medal at the Second Qualitative Exhibition of Industries in 1941 as the best domestic producer in the field of soft drinks – or kazuza as it was called at the time – surpassing dozens of other competing factories in this field.
The drink flourished in royal Egypt and became one of the national industries that received government encouragement, so much so that the royal palace contracted to supply its needs of "spirospats" drinks. This boom led to the growth of the factory, which expanded to include hundreds of workers, more than 20 cars to distribute products in all Egyptian governorates – a large fleet of cars at the time – as well as the use of railways to deliver the product to remote areas in southern Egypt.
In the fifties after the proclamation of the republic, the company "Sperospats" escaped the grip of the Free Officers and Abdel Nasser and continued its work with the same efficiency (social media)
On the eighth of May 1950, "Al-Khawaja" Sperospats died at the age of sixty-five, and was buried in the tombs of ancient Egypt next to St. George's Church, leaving behind four sons, three of them males, and a multi-flavored soft drink that dominates the beverage market in Egypt, and after his death, his son "Elijah" took over the leadership of the company after him.
Despite the wave of nationalization of foreign-owned companies in the fifties after the proclamation of the republic, the company "Sperospats" escaped the grip of the Free Officers and Abdel Nasser and continued its work with the same efficiency, and was even considered by the July Revolution as an example of the Egyptian local product that deserves encouragement and support, and won the confidence of the state and the market to the extent that it was the first drink in Egyptian government institutions.
In that period, "Sperospats" turned into a famous brand even at the artistic and advertising level, as it was known to be the favorite soft drink of the most famous Egyptian singer "um Kulthum", and he also appeared in many famous Egyptian films in that period, the most famous of which is the film "Bab Al-Hadid", in which actress "Hind Rostom" played the role of "Hanouma", the seller of cold drinks, and was limited to the drink "Spyrospats" specifically (4).
Elijah died in 1960, beginning a new era in the sixties in which the "Spyrospats" brand continued with the same force, with the state moving to support local products, until the defeat of 1967 came to carry a new Egyptian reality such as a major turn in the fame of the soft drink and its success, which continued as the most important local product in the country for more than forty years.
Sabats Khan the people!
One of the funny stories circulating in the news at that time about the drink "spirospats" was what happened in the student demonstrations that swept Egyptian universities in 1968 after the defeat, where students went out in a demonstration in which they chanted calls against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser as the first responsible for the setback. When security forces surrounded the demonstration, protesters took out bottles of Sabbats and all chanted: "Down with Sperospats. Sperospats betrayed the people." This chant was a pun to denounce the leader without mentioning his name.
After the October 1973 war, and the Egyptian state's orientation to the policy of economic openness and its embrace of the Western model, the Egyptian markets were filled with international products, especially the drinks of the international companies "Coca-Cola" and "Pepsi", which led to a sharp decline in the spread of local products, which affected the Greek company "Al-Khawaja". However, Sperospats continued to remain in the Egyptian market under the supervision of his sons until the end of the nineties, when it was announced that the company had been fully acquired in 1998 by SAPSA Carbonated Water Company, an Egyptian company founded in 1970 by businessmen Talaat Atwan and Samir Atwan, and was developing some local soft drinks as well.
With the departure of the sons of "Al-Khawaja" Sabats from Egypt, and the transformation of the company into an Egyptian management, "Sperospats" maintained its brand and developed its flavors, although its reach became so limited that it completely disappeared from Egyptian shops and cafes during the first decade of the millennium. With the death of the Atwan brothers and the travel of many of their sons abroad, Sperospats continued to disappear until the factory was completely shut down and sold out in 2014, which meant the death of the brand founded by the ambitious Greek some 100 years ago (1) (3).
"We reopened the company again, soda water is the business of the family, we have a history spanning decades in the industry, we know its secrets and details more than anyone else, and we know our ability to exist with an ambitious plan but with specific goals."
(Morcos Talaat, one of the owners of Sperospats)
In 2019, the family was reunited, and spirospats quietly resurfaced in the Egyptian market. In 2020, as the Corona pandemic swept the world, the company launched several advertising campaigns and began to exist timidly in the market, but it was not an influential presence in light of the dominance of global soft drinks, and the lack of new generations knowing anything about this product, let alone their ability to pronounce its name. But this has completely changed with the battle of the "Al-Aqsa flood" and the growing calls to boycott international products as one of the popular tools to pressure international companies that support the Israeli occupation.
A few weeks after the battle broke out, spirospats' sales rose by 300 percent, a figure that was never expected. This strong demand was surprising to the company, and although it seems like an opportunity that will not be repeated, it carried with it a great challenge in light of the lack of the company's production capabilities to provide its product in the market in abundance commensurate with the intensity of demand, and also improve its flavors to compete with international products. It was natural with the huge turnout that the company announced the opening of its doors to employ thousands of workers, which made it receive more than 15,5 CVs by the end of last October, and launch a large advertising activity that contributed to introducing millions of Egyptians to its brand (6) (<>).
In the end, the Gaza war represented a kiss of life for many different local products and services in the Arab countries, with the drink "spirospats" at the top of it, as the name - with its difficulty in pronouncing - became popular among Egyptians, even those who have not yet tasted it due to the lack of its quantity in the markets, despite its high price, which doubled due to the high demand. In the end, this remains one of the most noteworthy examples of how markets suddenly fluctuate against the backdrop of political events, and how the shape of trade competition can change overnight.
- 1 – Starbucks lays off employees in Egypt after Gaza boycott campaign
- 2 - Owners of the company «Spiro Spats»: setback 67 changed our course and the Gaza war gave us the kiss of life
- 3- Sabats, the first cold Egyptian thing. How was Khwaja a Greek founded it and why did the Egyptians call it the Debbane and the students cheered its fall? | conversation
- 4 – The story of um Kulthum's favorite drink returning to the markets after 103 years because of Gaza
- 5 - President of Sperospats: Sales rise to 300%. And we seek to cover all the governorates of Egypt
- 6 - After the increase in sales 350%. Spiro Spats announces receiving 15,<> CVs to work in the company
Source : Al Jazeera