The manufacture of soft drinks in Tanunda began in about 1958 by Wilhelm F. Abel. The fledgling business was located on the corner of Murray and Keith Streets, now the site of Barossa Valley Toyota.
Wilhelm contracted Simpson’s in Adelaide to make enamel signs to advertise his new business.
The signs featured an image of King Neptune and promoted ‘Neptune Sparkling Drinks, Manufactured by WF Abel & Co Ltd’.
Bottle caps and paper labels also featured the image of King Neptune.
After a short trading period Wilhelm Abel sold the business to Norm Steinert in about 1959.
Norm continued trading as Neptune Aerated Waters until the business name was changed to Tanunda Aerated Waters in 1961, the same year that Norm married Joan Neate.
Soon after, Norm and Joan’s sons, David and Mark, started helping in the factory during their early primary school years.
David recalls a starting wage of twenty cents per hour!
The business advertised a home delivery service which proved so popular that several drink depots were created to cope with demand including at Adelaide, Elizabeth and Waikerie.
Existing paper labels and advertising show that over thirty different flavoured soft drinks were made, including Mint Freeze, Ginger Stout, Cloudy Lime, Claret & Lemon, Sparkle and Cherry Cheer.
A diabetic range of soft drinks, two non-alcoholic beers, milk bar syrups, cordials and non-alcoholic ‘Sparkling Bubbly Pearl’ were all made at Tanunda.
Small eight ounce bottles were popular at local shows, school picnics and sporting events.
he company had a catering van, similar to a single axle plywood caravan, with the statement ‘We cater anywhere… At any time’ proudly written on the side, advertising Tanunda Aerated Waters as the van was hauled across the countryside.
The business peaked in the late 1960s, with the Elizabeth Depot ordering 450 dozen (5,400) bottles for Christmas 1968.
Up to 13 staff were employed, and a photo dated 1969 is titled ‘Fleet’ and consisted of two trucks, two vans, a Holden station wagon and the catering van.
Christmas was a busy time, as the heat of summer increased the demand for drinks.
Barossa families would often make a visit to the factory to buy a wooden crate of drinks in glass bottles.
In fact, in some homes, soft drinks were classed as a special treat and Christmas was the only time they were bought.
During the winter months, the business washed winery bottles and flagons which, together with ice production and glass recycling, helped diversify the business.
High operating costs contributed to the end of soft drink production in 1987, but for some years after the business still made cordials and continued as a bottle washing and bottle recycling facility.
The buildings are now gone but numerous bottles and labels still survive.
Internal threaded bottles, embossed bottles and ceramic labeled bottles are a lasting reminder of the old Tanunda Aerated Water’s factory.