MINGORA: There is a new viral sensation that has taken over the markets in Swat valley – Facebook, or to be precise 'Facebook snacks'.
Named after Mark Zuckerberg's social network – but with no official link – the munchies have given all other edibles a serious run for their money.
With the tag line "Like, Share & Eat" this clever marketing ploy has been a huge success, as young people, frustrated by their inability to log online due to unending loadshedding, have the snacks to turn to as an (admittedly poor) alternative.
“Owing to Facebook's immense popularity among the youth and adults, we decided to name our snacks after it. The idea has been very successful and sales have skyrocketed within no time," says manufacturer Ajmal Khan.
“Since its inception in the market, it has not only dominated other snacks and chips but has also reduced their market value," he adds proudly.
Young people in the scenic valley, also home to child activist and blogger Malala Yousufzai, say Facebook snacks are "exciting".
"We buy the edibles for fun and often have them while using Facebook too," student Abid Ali says enthusiastically.
"Facebook snacks are just as popular as the social media network itself."
"Both the social network and the snacks have 'socialising' factors. Friends connect online through the service while snacks enable friends to meet, eat and socialise," says Ahmad Ali, another snack enthusiast.
Much of the enthusiasm surrounding the new snack has to do with the widespread use of Facebook among the locals, both young and old.
"The use of social media has hit an all-time high with young people especially...they spend most of their time on Facebook; it has become a rage among all walks of life," says local resident Sarfaraz Khan.
"Children are also incredibly drawn to 'Facebook snacks' as the name is familiar to them. They are also cheaper than other snacks; a small pack is available for only Rs5," says Sulaiman Khan, a shopkeeper in Chinar Colony.
Outside his shop, cherubic-faced children are seen gleefully 'munching on Facebook', and their excitement at holding snacks named after the world's largest social network is both amusing and endearing.
While Facebook hold pole position, other local snacks are competing with 'winning' names of their own, such as Loadshedding, Drone Baba and Time Pass.
These local snacks dominate the market as they are cheaper, and more quirky, than the international brands.
Loadshedding: Swat valley is one of the areas in the country where hours long power outages are a regular occurrence. Despite public protests, the issue of loadshedding has not been resolved.
As such, the launch of Loadshedding snacks was both a marketing ploy and a form of protest against the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and government. The brand is immensely popular, and children have come up with a song for Loadshedding snacks which is often heard in the streets.
Drone Baba: The tribal belt and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat, have faced the nightmare of terrorism for years now. After the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones by the United States to target militants in the tribal areas, snack manufacturers in Swat recognised the opportunity and launched Drone Baba snacks.
Owing to its ultra-cheap cost, Drone Baba snacks are also quite popular among children.
Time Pass Snacks: "If the power is gone and you are bored with nothing to do, then go out and buy Time Pass snacks from a nearby shop — and take your time to devour them," says the manufacturer of Time Pass snacks.
Despite all these colourful options, it seems Facebook will dominate this snack market with ease; both Google and Apple remain non-entities, for now.