Perth’s love of sugary drinks in the 1920s lead to a mushrooming of “aerated water” companies, including a fine 1928 Northbridge building that has now been converted into apartments.
“Western Australia’s climate is extremely thirst-making,” Richard Offen, executive director of Heritage Perth, told 720 ABC Perth .
Between 1901 and the outbreak of World War I, more than 50 breweries were founded in the West to serve local demand in a era before long-haul trucking and refrigeration.
“For those who didn’t want beer, there was a need for mineral waters and cordials and things like that,” Mr Offen said.
“So the business of making aerated waters came into being.”
MacKay business bubbles up
Francis MacKay founded the MacKay & Co Aerated Waters factory in 1924, in partnership with a man named James Thompson.
Four years later they built the factory on Money Street in Northbridge.
“MacKay’s death on August 29, 1933 meant that his interest in the Money Street property was acquired by Thomson, who continued trading under the business’s existing name,” he said.
“In 1934, Thomson died at sea on his way back to Australia from a visit to Scotland and title to the Money Street land was transferred to his widow, Jessie.”
Despite the deaths of both its owners, the business continued and thrived.
2,400 bottles an hour
MacKay & Co had a fleet of 12 trucks for metropolitan deliveries and produced a large range of aerated waters, fruit juices and cordials, syrups for milk bars, cider and ginger beer.
“Much of the production was, by the 1940s, automated, producing 2,400 large bottles of soft drink per hour,” Mr Offen said.
“In summer, even this speed was insufficient, and the factory had to operate for 14 or 15 hours a day to keep up with seasonal demand.
“In another part of the factory, ginger beer and hop beer were brewed and either barrelled or bottled for sale.”
By the 1960s, however, tastes had begun to change.
“Certain cola companies were beginning to get their feet in the door and squeezing local companies out,” Mr Offen explained.
“Public taste changed too, and people began to favour aerated ‘fruit juices’ like lemonade which, according to their promoters, contained ‘energising and digestive properties’, with ‘a definite food value’.”
In 1962, MacKay & Co was licensed to produce drinks for the Pepsi-Cola company and by 1966, rival Coca-Cola bought the MacKay & Co business but not the factory on Money Street.
Coca-Cola continued to produce drinks under the MacKay name for a period of time, and the factory building was taken over by a haulage company.
In 1985, the State Government resumed the building and the East Perth Redevelopment Authority later sold the building for conversion into apartments and offices.
In 2012, the building won a Western Australian Heritage Award for best adaptive reuse.
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