1898 Kia-Ora cordial introduced

Australian Women's Weekly advertising. 1949

According to Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, the Kia-Ora brand was first used for lemon squash by Arthur Gasquoine of Sydney, who founded an ice and soft-drink business in 1896. However, the Sands Directories for that and the following year fail to reveal any trace of him. It seems likely, though, that he is the same A. H. Gasquoine who later became the London agent for the company founded by John Dixon in Prahran, Melbourne, in 1898.

Established as the Prahran Ice and Aerated Water Company, the company boasted the latest equipment for producing soft drinks including soda water, lemonades, ginger ale, sarsaparilla, tonic water, ginger beer and cordials of all flavours. The company became famous for its O.T. cordial, a product that had chillies as its primary ingredient.

Although O.T. was the mainstay of the business in its early days, it was the Kia-Ora brand that proved most enduring. Originally simply the brand for the company’s lemon squash and often a mere footnote in O.T. ads, it out-lived the chilli drink by many decades. The words Kia-Ora come from the Maori language meaning, literally, “be well” and used for both hello and goodbye in much the same way as the Italian “Ciao”. It was a popular property and street name in Australia in the early 20th century.

The Kia-Ora brand was launched in Great Britain in 1917 and sugar-free Kia-Ora cordials are still on the market there. Dixon sold the British rights in 1929 and the Coca-Cola Company now owns the brand in the U.K. In Australia, various products were released under the Kia-Ora brand including the popular 50:50 (half lemon, half orange) cordial that was launched in 1933. At that point, the product range included cordials and fruit drinks, concentrated fruit juices, and essences, tomato pulp, paper containers, cake cones, corrugated strawboard, cardboard containers and ice-cream cones.

In the 1940s, the Australian company began to operate under the name of Kia-Ora Industries Ltd and after World War II the company diversified into canned food, including baked beans, tinned spaghetti (including the infamous Spaghetti-Os), and soup.

The Australian company was bought by the American Campbell’s Soup Company in 1961 – Campbell’s entry into the Australian market. The Kia-Ora brand continued for some years, but in 1969 products began to be co-branded with the Campbell’s name. The Kia-Ora name, and most of the canned products, were phased out. The cordial division ended up in the hands of Schweppes and the Kia-Ora brand eventually disappeared in the land of its birth.

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