Ramadan has begun and Muslims around the world will abstain from eating and drinking during daylight for a month – and a certain British soft drink will play a major role.

While most of the food and drink traditionally consumed by Muslims when they break the fast is homemade or natural – such as spicy vegetables, paneer fritters and dates – Vimto is the slightly less conventional refreshment that is often brought to the table during Iftar.

The lurid purple drink, first manufactured in Manchester in 1908 and made from grape, blackcurrant and raspberry flavouring (and a lot of sugar), sees its sales go through the roof in Gulf states during Ramadan, with 31 million bottles sold in 2011 alone.

It is thought the large quantity of sugar and the strong flavour is key to its popularity.

Manchester imam, Asad Zaman, told Kevin Bocquet on Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “One of the reasons it is so popular in the Middle East is because they have quite a sweet tooth.

“After a day of fasting your stomach has collapsed and your body is really low on energy. Anything sweet is a quick fix in terms of energising your body. Of course there are other things like dates which are recommended.”

Mr Zaman said Vimto is a good alternative to caffeine drinks but added that water is the best liquid for Muslims observing Ramadan to consume when they break their fast. 

“It is important to avoid anything caffeine based as it will dehydrate your body more quickly because you will go to the loo more frequently and you need to maintain that water for as long as possible. Water is perhaps the best thing to drink,” he said.

The Vimto sold in the Gulf states is thought to be even higher in sugar levels than that sold in Western countries.

Salman Farsi, Media & Communications Officer at East London Mosque, told the BBC: “The recipe is probably made a bit stronger and sweeter for the Arab markets. 

“They do particularly like their drinks to be bursting with sugar and flavour.”

For the world’s more than 1.6 billion Muslims, Ramadan marks a period of fasting from sunrise until sunet (including abstaining from both water and food), prayer and alms giving. 

Fasting, alms giving and prayers are all part of the five pillars of the Islamic faith.

This article has been updated. It was originally published in June 2016.

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