Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Field Trip: Foxton Fizz Factory

With my home-made ginger beer quietly seething in a cool, dark place, I got to thinking about glass-bottled soft drinks in general. Not particularly common today, they were everywhere when I was growing up. This was the mid-seventies, a time when flares flapped proudly around ankles, and men were hairier than was probably necessary. This was a time when regional soft drink manufacturers were common place all over New Zealand. I can remember being taken on a trip to the Curly Top soft drink factory in Hastings as a littlie. But over time, faced with stiff competition from the larger international brands, these little bottlers began to fold.

Foxton Fizz, first produced in 1918, is one of the few genuine traditional soft drink manufacturers to have survived those times. I remember seeing their product in dairies when I was studying at Massey during the nineties, so imagine my surprise recently when I saw some being sold at the Maranui cafe in Lyall Bay.

Last week, while I was in Palmerston North, it seemed the perfect opportunity to pop over to Foxton in the hope of an impromptu factory tour. I turned up unannounced and was met by busy co-owner, Jeremy Randerson. He very kindly showed me around his operation and talked briefly about its history and his time there.

Jeremy has owned the company with his associates for the last fifteen months. It is essentially a one-man operation but given the seasonal nature of consumption, part-timers are brought in to assist when business is brisk. The soft drinks are distributed throughout the Manawatu, and to some outlets in Taranaki and the Waikato. The product range comprises kola, creaming soda (teh best!), lime, lemonade, raspberry, cocktail, ginger beer, soda water and tonic water. The water used to make the soft drinks used to come from the plant's own bore but now it uses the town's bore supply.

The charm of Foxton Fizz lies in its use of glass bottles, harkening back to the "good old days". These are recyclable - bottles are returned to the factory to be sterilised and reused. The glass is now sourced overseas due to problems obtaining the correct size here. Glass has key features making it eminently superior to plastic: its obvious reusability; less impact on the environment compared to plastic production and disposal; and soft drinks store longer, with little loss of carbonation. In the future, Jeremy wants to implement a returns feature, the payment of a small sum for returning empty bottles for reuse. South Australia, he said, has a returns policy on a wide range of materials making recycling more attractive to the consumer, as well as guaranteeing a return and industry viability to recycling businesses.

I got to wander around the plant, taking photos, while Jeremy attended to business. The factory is a small outfit with a mix of old and new technology. Of particular interest were the many crates, printed with the names of now defunct regional soft drink manufacturers (for a look at the names, see the flickr slideshow below). After a good look around, I said goodbye and walked out with a mixed crate of goodies under my arm (at a good price, too - the mark-up cafes and dairies put on them are eye watering!).
And my personal favourite from the range?

Here's a slideshow of the factory and it's fine products:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

The Flickr photoset can be seen here. Take a look too, at this vintage Foxton Fizz advertising material courtesy of NZ caravan and holiday site, Retro Camping.

A big thanks to Jeremy for letting me explore his fantastic plant! The Foxton Fizz factory is located at 8 Whyte Street in Foxton, phone (06) 363 8271 - now, go buy some! Better yet, ask your dairy or cafe to get some in stock.


Anonymous said...

Great to see a small, historical business such as Foxton Fizz garner some well deserved attention. Their future returns feature is also highly commendable. Excellent post!

Nigel Olsen said...

Thanks! What I'd like to do is track down the remaining "old school" soft drink companies and see how they've fared over time. It'd be interesting too, to contrast that with the new generation, such as Phoenix.

Nigel Olsen said...

Aargh! It's chopped my photos again.

nzsmittenkitten said...

hey i came across your blog via google... yes lol i googled foxton fizz creaming soda thanks to wikipedia... arrrg its not fair they obviously have the best creaming soda and i cant get it! it looks like the really good old fashioned flavour as well?

Anonymous said...

my uncle murray keane owned curly top fizz factory in hastings

Nigel Olsen said...

Smitten - it's not bad stuff. Recently, I've been experimenting with making my own flavours, using sugar syrup and DIY extracts with my little old soda stream.

Anon - Really?! He made a lot of kids growing up in the Bay very happy, this one included :)