Remember Campa Cola? It is set to return this Diwali
The soft drink brand is back in the news with Reliance acquiring Campa from the Pure Drinks Group, and is planning to relaunch it nationally by Diwali in three flavours -- the iconic original, and lemon and orange variants
The red-brick building near Shankar Market is in a dilapidated state. But if you look hard enough, you can still see the image of a big bottle on the wall, and a faint five-letter word emblazoned next to it: “Campa.”
“Do you know Campa Cola was quintessentially a Delhi brand,” says Kamal Jain, who sells stationery and cold drinks across the road from the red-brick building where the carbonated drink was manufactured, and which also served as the company’s headquarters.
“I sold hundreds of bottles of Campa Cola every day, and they were manufactured right there in that building. I bought directly from the factory,” Jain adds.
Production of the drink stopped at this location in 1999. But Campa Cola was back in the news this week with Reliance acquiring Campa from the Pure Drinks Group, and planning to relaunch it nationally by Diwali in three flavours -- the iconic original, and lemon and orange variants. The brand, a report in the Economic Times said, will be distributed through the chain’s own stores as well as local grocery shops.
Pure Drinks Group, which also owns the Le Méridien hotel in Delhi, launched Campa Cola in the late 1970s after Coca-Cola was asked to leave the country in 1977 by the then Janata Party government over alleged violations of the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act, along with other multinationals including IBM.
In fact, it was the Pure Drinks Group that first introduced Coca-Cola in India in 1949, and was its sole licensed manufacturer and distributor in India.
For about 15 years after 1977, Campa Cola was Delhi’s cold beverage of choice. The brand was an instant hit. During its heyday, it was manufactured in over 50 factories across the country, including four in Delhi. “ While the CP factory was the oldest and the most famous, the one in Moti Nagar was the largest in Delhi,” said a former sales manager at Campa’s Shankar market factory, asking not to be named. The other two factories were located in Najafgarh and Okhla. All units have shut down.
The Campa factory in Connaught Place was a city landmark. In the 1980 and the ’90s, it was a sought-after venues for school visits. “Busloads of school students came every day; schools would book their visits much in advance. We always gave them gifts. While schools were happy seeing our plant; we hoped that many of them would become our customers, ” added the former sales manager.
It was also a sought-after drink at wedding parties. “One had to book your order a few weeks in advance. I remember having booked about 300 crates for the wedding reception of my nephew in Janakpuri in the 1980s,” says Sunit Vashishtha, a retired teacher in Paschim Vihar. “Campa Cola was so popular that we could not meet the demand in Delhi even though our factories ran 24x7!” says the former sales manager.
The company positioned Campa as a “Made in India” drink and said it had “Great Indian Taste”. It’s only competition was the Parle group’s Thums Up, which ruled the roost in Mumbai, and was later acquired by Coca Cola.
But sales started dwindling after the arrival of Pepsi and the return of Coca-Cola in 1993 as a liberalised India opened its doors to the world.Pure Drinks Group could not be immediately contacted for comment.