Story: Food and beverage manufacturing

Page 7. Cold drinks

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Soft drink manufacturers

New Zealand production of soft drinks began in the 1830s with cordials and ginger beer. The first aerated (carbonated) water was made in Auckland in 1845. The drinks were popular, and small manufacturers proliferated, from Gisborne to Greytown and Akaroa to Alexandra. By 1918 there were 164 factories nationwide, and most towns of 500 or more people had an aerated water factory.

Drink bottles

The Hamilton bottles in use in New Zealand from 1840 to 1870 were sealed with a cork and secured with a wire. The bottoms were rounded to prevent them being stored upright, which would allow the cork to dry out and break the seal. They were named ‘torpedoes’ or ‘bombs’ after their shape.

In 1872 Hiram Codd patented a bottle sealed with a glass marble trapped in the neck, which was held against a rubber seal by the pressure inside. This ‘Codd’ bottle quickly replaced all others and was standard for 50 years. Children tended to break the bottle to get the marble out, which reduced the rate at which bottles were recycled.

Glass bottles were a major production cost. They had to be strong enough for pressurisation, and not to burst or leak before the beverage was consumed. Each manufacturer owned their own bottles, branded with their name. The bottles were collected, returned, cleaned and refilled – encouraged by a cash deposit repaid on empties.

Arriving at a safe and hygienic bottle design took many years and failures, until the advent of the metal crown cap in 1910. Due to hygiene regulations and costs, plastic bottles, aluminium cans and non-returnable glass bottles had become the standard containers by the 1990s.


Takeovers and mergers reduced the number of soft-drink manufacturers to 113 by the 1940s. Seven of these companies survived into the 1960s, including Innes, Grey and Menzies, Ballins, Schweppes and Thompson’s. Together they owned 22 factories nationwide. By the early 2000s the industry was dominated by large multinational corporations, although there were still some small locally-owned operations, such as Foxton Fizz in the Manawatū. Over 75 New Zealand companies were involved in manufacturing and importing cold drinks.

Lemon and Paeroa

Paeroa, a small Waikato town, gave its name to a famous soft-drink, first called Paeroa and Lemon. The naturally sparkling water from a spring in a paddock was discovered in the 19th century. Bottling by the Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Company, located in the township a short distance away, began in 1900. In 1907 lemon essence was added and Lemon and Paeroa, or L & P, was born.

The factory had many owners, including Innes Schweppes, and eventually closed in 1980. In the early 2000s it was made artificially by Coca-Cola Amatil in Auckland. A seven-metre-high replica of an L & P bottle has been a familiar landmark in Paeroa township since it was built in 1967.



Coca-Cola was popularised by American servicemen in New Zealand during the Second World War. It was imported ready-made from 1939, and made locally from imported concentrate after 1944. In the early 2000s factories in Auckland and Christchurch could produce over three million litres of soft drink a day.


Energy and sports drinks

Energy drinks were introduced to New Zealand in 1997. They claimed to provide more energy than normal soft drinks, and became popular with young people. They contain as much sugar as standard soft drinks (up to 9 teaspoons per 250 millilitres) and almost as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. The caffeine often comes from the guarana plant, a Brazilian native which has about five times more caffeine per seed than a coffee bean.

Some coloured, flavoured sugared waters are also marketed as sports drinks.

Fruit juice

To be called ‘fruit juice’ a drink must be pure fruit juice, with up to 4% added sugar. A ‘fruit drink’ must contain at least 5% fruit juice and may contain extra sugar, water and other additives. Juices are often concentrated by heating, to remove most of the water, and to reduce volume and transport costs. The juices are then reconstituted, mixed and pasteurised before being bottled hot and transported to retail outlets.

In the early 2000s ENZA Foods was a major producer of apple-juice concentrates, which were often mixed with imported juice concentrates to produce different flavours.

How to cite this page:

Sarah Wilcox, 'Food and beverage manufacturing - Cold drinks', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 June 2024)

Story by Sarah Wilcox, published 11 Mar 2010