Former National Aerated Water Company

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 Road, 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

17 Responses to Former National Aerated Water Company

  1. A newspaper advert of Kickapoo by National Aerated Water Company on the Straits Times in 1969

  2. Ben says:

    Excellent work! How about a write-up on the Victoria Street Wholesale Centre? It is gone now by the way.

  3. Passerby says:

    Do you know if Sinlaco is being sold still. I believe i’ve seen Kickapo or Fanta now moving to F&N or Coca-Cola but don’t recall Sinlaco nowadays.

    • Samuel Giam says:

      Oh! If you’re talking about Kickapoo, the drink’s rights was once franchised to Pokka (Singapore), and was reverted back to the Monarch Drinks Co. after Pokka made the brand popular. However for Fanta, only last year (2011) when F&N and Coca-Cola in Singapore split and spun off then we Singaporeans again taste our local version of the Fanta drinks made by Coca-Cola (Singapore).

  4. TY says:

    Thank you for this article! I grew up in the St. Michael’s Road area, and since the 1990s, have been curious about this building as well as the history of the area. I wonder if you came across other bits of history, for example, opposite the river (now the private pink-coloured condominium) there used to be another soft drinks factory. On the art deco facade with the flagpole, there used to be a big Sinalco or Kickapoo logo.

  5. What’s your favourite old school soft drink?

  6. nath says:

    Schweppes Cream soda and orangina are my favourite
    Where do we get schweppes cream soda’s now?

  7. Linda says:

    Green Spot :) F&N Orange is a must for Chinese New Year of yesteryears, without it Chinese New Year wouldn’t beChinese New Year :)

  8. budak says:

    a former fireman who worked at Central Fire Station in the 1960s told me that opposite the station, the company had premises (factory?) as well spanning three shophouses by Hill Street now occupied by Funan Centre

  9. Eastern Aerated Water Company Ltd (东方汽水有限公司) was another soft drink manufacturer in Singapore many decades ago. It started in Middle Road before moving to Geylang Road in 1951, where its operation lasted until the eighties.
    Its former premises with the name still stand at the junction of Geylang Road and Geylang Lorong 22.

  10. rufino1995 says:

    Ah, Yes, used to see this building when going to school (St Andrew’s) and church.. in the ow gang area from 60’s onward… (60’s there is a round-a-about called Woodsville circus.. )
    During my school days most of my classmates would drink either coke or pepsi.. I would be the very few who would drink Kickapoo.. and whenever I go to the supermarket & come across it now, I will buy a couple of cans to relive those moments, so joyous!! :)

  11. Mobile drink stalls were once very popular, selling bottled chrysanthemum, soya bean and other soft drinks in the evenings, such as this stall at Wallich Street c.1979


    (Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore)

  12. Linda says:

    It’s a pity to see all these places which held our memories, gone. But that’s the unavoidable reality of scarce land here.

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