In March 1884, Henry Watson and Edward Soloman formed a partnership to manufacture aerated water and cordial at Henry Watson’s property on the Richmond River. The partnership was mutually dissolved on the 1st Dec 1884 and Edward Soloman formed a new partnership with Peter Gray. The pair took out a lease on the corner of Kerr and River Street Ballina and continued the manufacturing of aerated drinks and cordial.
In 1886 George Alfred Lewis took over the aerated water and cordial factory until early 1912. Angus Harold McDonald took over the lease on March 19 1912 and remained in Ballina till October 10 1914 when the lease was taken over by Alfred Ernest Phipps.
Alfred Ernest Phipps ran the aerated water and Cordial Manufacturing with his son Arthur from 1914 to May 17th 1924 when Charles Crockett took over the business located on River Street Ballina. Charles sold the Cordial manufactory to Charles Gordon and John Eric Johnson who operated under the trade name of Johnson Brothers in 1926.
The Johnson Brothers was renowned in the district for their ginger beer which was brewed for twelve months before it was bottled into crown seal stone bottles. Eric maintained the aerated water and cordial business in Ballina until he sold to Raymond Charles Spencer in July 1st 1950.
Raymond Charles Spencer ran the cordial manufacturing business with his two sons, Charles and William, on the corner of River and Grant Street Ballina. Raymond was killed in a car accident in July 10, 1951, a year after taking over the business, leaving his two sons to run the business. Charles and William converted the hand bottling to automatic machinery and by 1960’s was fully automatic.
The two brothers continued to work in the cordial factory in Ballina until 1968 when they amalgamated with Pilgrim’s cordial from Mullumbimby to form Nor-East Drinks. During that time big multi-national companies had entered the local market and the cheaper prices made it less profitable for Nor-East Drinks to continue manufacturing their own aerated waters and cordials. As time went by, the company became more of a distribution centre until 1978 when William Burnett took over the business. William Burnett moved the depot from Grant Street to West Ballina where Trevan Ford is now. Charles and William continued to work for the new owner until 1988 when the business was sold to Bruce Zietsch who dismantled the production facilities and Nor-East Drinks became merely a drinks depot. William Burnett worked as a Sales Rep for Bruce Zietsch.
Bruce Zietsch sold the business to Marty Driscoll in 1989 and then Charles (Ted) & Fay Kerslake took over the business in 1994 to 2002 and the current owners, Anthony and Lin Johnson, bought the business in Dec 2002. By this time Nor-East Drinks was the official local distributor for Schweppes. The drinks business has expanded to also become a distributor of Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Golden Circle Heinz, Red Bull, etc. In 2006, Nor-East Drinks included Smith’s Snackfoods and various confectionery items in their distribution.
In July 2nd 2014 Schweppes discontinued the distributor relationship with Nor-East Drinks and hence, Nor-East Drinks became an independent Beverage & Confectionery Wholesaler. The cessation of the relationship with Schweppes allowed Nor-East Drinks to expand its territory further north to the New South Wales Border and further south towards the Clarence Region, e.g Grafton, Maclean, Yamba.
Nor-East Drinks has the opportunity to expand its range of beverages and has now joined the Australian Independent Distributors Alliance to enhance the opportunity for expansion of the business. AIDA is a cooperative made up of independent beverage distributors and manufacturers who have become AIDA members. Its first purpose is to set retailers free from having their fridge layouts dictated by the major drinks manufacturers. Its second purpose is to guarantee retail fridge display space for its member suppliers, who AIDA says are increasingly being squeezed out of the fridges that are supplied by the drinks majors.
With their association with AIDA, Nor-East Drinks becomes the official distributor of Lipton Ice Tea in the Northern River Region.