The arrival of Coca-Cola in 1963, and then Pepsi in 1976, caused a significant shift in the food habits of Bangladesh's urban population, which eventually spread to every corner of the country, making soft drinks an essential part of daily life.
Besides Coca-Cola and Pepsi, many local beverage companies also emerged to capture a share of the ever-growing beverage market. Most of these companies, however, tended to follow in the footsteps of the international brands when it came to taste, branding and packaging.
Instead of trying to come up with something novel, the local brands always felt comfortable working with what was already accepted and admired by the consumers. As a result, the choice of soft drinks remained restricted, and the flavors were confined to cola, lemon and orange.
In 2003, Globe Soft Drink Ltd. decided to introduce something unconventional. They launched the first-ever caffeinated drink in the country called Tiger energy drink. Ring any bell? This drink was carefully developed, keeping the demographic of the country in mind; and it became an instant hit in the market. The company called this category of product "energy drinks."
Following Tiger's footsteps, several energy drinks were introduced to the market over the years, produced by different companies. And still, the energy drink segment holds a significant share of the soft drink industry.
But sadly, that was the last notable innovation in the beverage industry until March 2021, when SMC Enterprise Ltd. launched its first-ever beverage, SMC Plus Electrolyte.
"Working in an untapped market is always speculative. The product will be either a hit or a miss, nothing in-between," said an SMC representative.
Rich in ions like sodium, potassium and magnesium, electrolyte drinks are remarkably prevalent abroad. These drinks hydrate our bodies and can boost our energy swiftly.
SMC Plus Electrolyte is currently the only drink of this type in Bangladesh.
SMC Plus Electrolyte comes in two different flavors - lemon and orange. The drink contains approximately 8% of sugar, which is far less than any other beverage in the market and it is fundamentally designed to cater to the younger generation. However, it is age appropriate for all.
SMC plus is a beverage for the educated youth, those who are health-conscious. The hype SMC plus has created is mostly around the city belt. Being the first product in this category.
As a result, since its launch, the demand has been much higher than its production. However, the response outside of Dhaka is still slow. In a conversation with The Business Standard, Shah Alam, owner of ST Trading in the capital's Kallyanpur, shared his experience with SMC Plus Electrolyte.
"I think it was at the end of last year when I started storing this drink in my shop. I am very skeptical about new products, so I did not initially want to keep them in my store. They offered me two free cases to try out, and since then, I have been selling more and more every day.
In fact, they cannot supply me with enough, I am almost always out of stock with this product," Alam said, adding that the drink was the best-selling item during Ramadan this year. But sadly, he has not received any supply since then.
Since its inception, the organization has mostly been working with diarrheal and contraceptive products that has changed the lives of millions for the better.
Electrolytes come in three different forms - powder, tablet or drink. SMC Plus uses the tetra package and compared to a powder or tablet formula, the drink formula is easier to consume.
Currently, the price of a 250ml SMC Plus Electrolyte is Tk25. The price may change soon as the cost of raw materials has skyrocketed. SMC representative said, the altered price also will be affordable.
What makes the drink so popular is hard to delineate for now. Some like it for its taste and value for money, while some drink it for its effectiveness. Only time will tell if the drink turns out to be a permanent success - perhaps even revolutionary - or just a fleeting hype.