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A Taste of the South Pacific: Cascade Soft Drinks

A Taste of the South Pacific: Cascade Soft Drinks

Travelling down Cascade Road past the Norfolk Island Central School, you will pass a sign tucked away under the tropical undergrowth that leads to the long established Cascade Soft Drinks

Cascade Soft Drinks

During WWII, New Zealand airmen were stationed on Norfolk Island to counteract the perceived threat posed by Japan in the Pacific. Norfolk Island’s main supply of aerated water and beer came to the Island courtesy of the NZ Air Force. However, once the war effort ended, expensive imports forced the largely subsistent community to exercise their resourceful nature in order to provide the ‘little luxuries’ of life.

In the late 1950’s local resident Jim Anderson mixed his first soft drink in a plastic laundry bucket. It wasn’t long before Jim was marketing his drinks to local clubs and shops. The early bottles used by Jim in the 1950 ‘s were NZ brown beers that could be found in abundance around the island. These bottles were collected, hand washed, filled, crown capped and labelled. At that time, the local favourite was ’kola’, and it was this flagship drink that laid the basis for the expansion of one of the Island’s early and most enjoyed products of Cascade Soft Drinks.

In 1968 the company was bought by Paul Dealhsen. Paul soon imported an ‘Army Surplus’ aeroplane hangar from Australia enabling the establishment of a bigger and better Cascade Soft Drink factory. In 1984 Paul sold the factory to Barry Blackmore and his wife Sandy. Their ownership was short lived with their family drawing them back to Qld in 1988, when they sold the factory to John and Joyce Forrester.

The Forrester’s set about improving the production standards to ensure a safe and enjoyable product into the future. The factory was extended and incorporated a new and more hygienic bottle washing machine that was no longer clogged by labels that floated off bottles as in past days. New gas fired hot water units were purchased, and the dirt track from Cascade Road was replaced by concrete to reduce the dust billowing into the factory.

In the mid 1990s the Forrester’s decided to update the production line and the then Manager of Cascade Soft Drinks Matt Reeves, travelled to Coonabarabran in Western New South Wales to purchase a plant from Tom Clare of Clare’s Soft Drinks of Coonabarabran.

Tom, Lorna and Melba Clare came to Norfolk shortly after the arrival of their plant to help reassemble the production lines and iron out the wrinkles. Tom had operated successfully as a local icon for many years but sadly like most country manufacturers he was forced to stop operating as a result of activities of multi-national soft drink companies. Before Tom departed Norfolk he left his old cordial recipe books just in case they might be needed!

Joyce Forrester passed away suddenly in 1996 and soon after one of John’s sons Brad, with his wife Ariane and their son, Andre, came to Norfolk to care for John and to assist in the running of the soft drink business.

Today, Cascade Soft Drinks are the choice of Norfolk locals and they have an extended range of traditional and tasty flavours. As time has gone on, more and more concentrate and flavour manufacturers around the world are producing what is termed ‘Nature Identical’ concentrates for the soft drink Industry. However, Brad and the team continue to using the old fashioned recipes of manufacturers like Tom Clare – now over 40 years old. Cascade Soft Drinks are reminiscent of those drinks Grandma had delivered to her door that tasted so good. Like old fashioned Lemon Squash where you can actually ‘see’ the Lemon juice and pulp settled on the bottom of the bottle. Creaming Soda like it used to taste 40 years ago, Ginger Beer with real Ginger, Lime made with real Lime juice, Sparkling Apple juice with no added sugar, and so on for the whole of the 15 products in their soft drink range.

A well-known food ingredient author recently visited the soft drink factory and found that the level of preservative used in the manufacture of the local soft drinks is about a tenth of that used by the leading manufacturers. These days we are far more aware of the reactions of food additives especially in children but also for adults. Many visitors to Norfolk with food allergies who have tried (with caution) the local product have been genuinely surprised that they have experienced no reaction at all to the locally made products.

Over the years the Forrester’s and staff were concerned with environmental issues and to encourage the bottles to be returned for recycling they introduced a 25 cents refundable deposit on each 750ml glass bottle of Soft Drink and 10 cents refundable deposit on each 300ml glass bottle of soft drink.

In 2007, they purchased 30,000 x 750 ml glass bottles from Victoria. These bottles are the old fashioned ‘long neck’ bottles used substantially throughout Australia in the 70’s and 80’s by small soft drink producers.

A small manufacturing business on Norfolk Island like Cascade Soft Drinks is a tough operation and needs the support of Assembly, Public Service, Local Residents and Visitors to Norfolk. So when you are on Norfolk – experience the unique natural taste of soft drinks produced in what must be one of the last privately owned aerated water factories in the South Pacific.

Norfolk Island Liqueurs

Unique flavouring and local ingenuity doesn’t stop with soft drink manufacture. The Cascade Soft Drink factory also hosts the production of Norfolk Island Liqueurs.

During a recession period in the early 1990s, times on Norfolk were not easy and local politician, the late Ernie Christian took the initiative to try and reduce the impact of this recession on the local community by developing local production and businesses.

Ernie Christian encouraged John and Joyce Forrester to consider whether they would be interested in manufacturing spirits on the premises which would then be sold through the Government run Liquor Bond Store. The spirit market is indeed a competitive one, though it was conceded that done properly, developing a boutique range of liqueurs may bring results.

The Liqueurs range was developed and initially 26 flavours were produced, though the number was eventually reduced and has now settled at 15, most of which are the more popular flavours from the early years. In the late nineties after Brad and his family had returned to Norfolk to assist in running the business, John and Brad discussed the need for the Government to consider altering the manufacturing licence granted to Norfolk Island Liqueurs and allow for a ‘Tasting Room’ to be established on the factory premises. After much deliberation, in late 1998 the Norfolk Island Government provided such a dispensation and allowed Norfolk Island Liqueurs to establish a Tasting Room so that people could sample the locally made products to assist them in their decisions on purchase.

Brad’s wife Ariane took up the role of designing and creatively directing a revamp of the product line and spent considerable time designing every presentation aspect of the product range you will find today. The Norfolk Island Liqueurs bottles are of a specially ordered design and come to the Island from a very old and well regarded glass bottle manufacturer in Florence, Italy. Ariane’s creative skills have enhanced the imported 500ml bottles finishing up with a truly unique, stunning and stylish range of Liqueurs.

Depending upon when you are visiting the island you may well find Brad distilling his spirit in the Tasting Room using his‘new baby’ – a wonderful new reflux still purchased two years ago from Germany.

Brad and the team will continue to use as much local product as possible in producing their boutique range of liqueurs as they strive for perfection and their long term goal is to develop a totally organic range of liqueurs sourced entirely from local produce.


Image Credit: Robin Nisbet


Article content disclaimer: Article first published in YourWorld, Volume 02 Issue 01, 2012. Please note that details of specific travel, accommodation and touring options may be outdated. References to people, places and businesses, including operating days and times may be have changed. References to Government structure and Government businesses/entities may no longer be applicable. Please check directly with businesses and/or Government websites directly rather than relying on any information contained in this article before you make travel arrangements.


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