Coca-Cola in Old Shanghai

Coca-Cola is one of the ubiquitous brand in today’s Shanghai, but the famous soft drink was also very successful in Old Shanghai. It was first bottled in 1927, by the Watson’s Mineral Water Company. “In fact, Shanghai became the first city outside the US to order 10,000 gallons of syrup in a year during the 1930s,” said Ted Ryan Coca-Cola’s director of heritage communications in a 2015 China Daily interview. Like in other countries, Coca-Cola sales were supported by strong advertising.

1938 Old Shanghai Coca-Cola advertising

Above is the front cover of the 1938 Spring Summer Shanghai Dollar Directory, a yearbook including phone and business directory, as well a section on gardening in Shanghai. This ad was the biggest on both covers and must have been a great sale for the advertising section.

By 1938, Coca-Cola was bottled in 2 factories, one in Avenue Haig (today HuaShan lu) and the other one on Wayside (today HuoShan Lu in Hongkou district). Soft drink and sparkling water was a big market, as Watson’s was not the only one (Watson’s has been back in China for many years, but bottling Coke). Another producer of sparkling water and drink was Aquarius (more to come in a later post).

The ad was clearly aimed at both foreigners and Chinese writing. The characters for 可口可樂 (可口可乐 in simplified ) were displayed from right to left as it was usual then. The translation of the brand was the same as today, with characters being roughly translated as “good taste makes happy”, one of the best ever translation for a foreign brand name in Chinese.

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