In 1929, three businessmen Yap Shing Min, Cheng Sze Boo and Tan Kah Woo established the National Aerated Water Company at Hamilton Road, off Lavender Street. It was 1954 when the company moved its premises to the new $500,000 factory near Moonstone Lane, off Serangoon Road, which was fondly known as ow gang sar kok jio (Hougang 3rd milestone) in the old days.
Located just beside the south bank of the Kallang River, the Art Deco-styled building was able to produce 48,000 bottles of soft drinks everyday, double the production of the old plant at Hamilton Road.
When it was opened in the mid-1920s, National Aerated Water Company was looking to gain a significant market share in the soft drink industry from established rival brands such as Fraser and Neave Limited (F&N) (established in 1883) as well as new competitor in Phoenix Aerated Water Works (opened in 1924).
The company managed to survive the Second World War, when the Japanese invading forces occupied Malaya and Singapore. During the difficult period, there were only 20 workers producing the soft drinks with the limited sugar they received from the authorities.
National Aerated Water Company became a private limited company in 1948, and four years later, it obtained the manufacturing and distribution rights of Sinalco (“鲜拿果” in Chinese). The soft drink from then West Germany turned out to be a hit in Malaya and Singapore.
By the end of the fifties, the company was already supplying Sinalco to the whole of Malaya, including Sabah and Sarawak.
The year 1964 marked an important chapter in National Aerated Water Company’s history as it opened a new subsidiary plant in Petaling Jaya, Kuala Lumpur. Producing 600,000 bottles of Sinalco a month in its initial stage, the company was in a better strategic location to supply Malaya, with the exception of Johore which was supplied directly from Singapore. Lorries and vans carrying the bottled drinks left the factory every morning; one of their destinations was Ipoh, a distribution centre that could hold two weeks’ of stock.
By the mid-1960s, the company enjoyed a 30% increase in sales, with 1.3 million bottles of Sinalco consumed by the people in Malaya and Singapore.
As the company expanded from the sixties to the eighties, National Aerated Water Company added Kickapoo, Singacol and Fanta to their production, where these soft drinks went on to become popular household brands.
By the nineties, the company went into a decline and shut down eventually. The factory was abandoned after its closure. In 2007, there were calls to preserve the iconic old building of National Aerated Water Company, but since the premises is still privately owned, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA) could only place it under its consideration list.
At the restricted compound of the National Aerated Water Company, one can still spot the old private petrol pump that was used for its transport in the past.
Published: 06 August 2012