Rawalpindi: The recent arrest of Demi Moore and Bruce Willis’ underage daughter for a drinking offence has helped bring to limelight Pakistan`s only beer maker.
The Hollywood stars` daughter was arrested in New York in June carrying a beer can of Murree Brewery. Following the incident, Murree Brewery received innumerable emails seeking details about its beer.
The lone Pakistani beer maker sensed an opportunity and decided to make use of the free publicity in order to move its operations beyond the Islamic country. In Pakistan, where alcohol is banned and drinkers often become the target of Taliban and other Islamist fundamentalists, selling alcohol is not a lucrative business.
Also, non-Muslims and foreigners must obtain a government permit to purchase alcohol at designated retailers, mainly upscale hotels.
Murree Brewery, which is 150 years old, is planning to launch its flagship beer in the United States and Dubai as early as the first quarter of 2013.
"Demi Moore and Bruce Willis` daughter gave us multi-million dollars worth of publicity by default. We plan to go to the United States and make a queue to hug both the daughter and the mother," Sabih ur Rehman, special assistant to the chief executive, told news agency Reuters.
Murree Brewery was established in 1860 by British colonial rulers to supply beer to their troops. At present, it is desperately looking for business overseas to hedge against its uncertain domestic market, Reuters reported.
The company also produces a line of juices and non-alcoholic drinks, but is prohibited from advertising its beer, whisky, gin and other liquor products.
Relying on word of mouth and an influx of thirsty diplomats and foreign investors, annual alcohol sales have grown an average of 20 percent over the past five years, reaching USD 26.8 million in the 2012 financial year.
However, despite strong sales, the company`s net profit after taxes rose a mere 1 percent year-on-year to 525 million Pakistan rupees for the year ended June 30, due to an increase in alcohol taxes and rising labour costs.
Murree Brewery`s chief executive Isphanyar Bhandara said there’s a constant fear of the authorities closing down alcohol production at any moment.
"Pakistan is moving more and more to the right. That is not good for Pakistan and not good for us," the 39-year-old executive told Reuters at his office in Rawalpindi, a military city just outside the capital, Islamabad.
"Each day we are allowed to survive, that is a blessing."
(With Agency inputs)