Ceylon Cold Stores (CCS), trading as Elephant House, is a Sri Lankan company which produces carbonated drinks, ice cream and processed meat products. Despite competition from global competitors such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Elephant Soft Drinks remains the market leader in Sri Lanka.
With a history stretching as far back as 1866, the origins of the Ceylon Cold Stores are rooted in the Colombo Ice Company. Founded by a German engineer, Arthur Von Possner the Colombo Ice Company began production of ice on a commercial scale, gradually gaining a reputation that the district would soon be officially referred to as the Kompaniveediya.
Colombo Ice Company imported the country’s first ice-making machine in 1863. With an initial capital of £1,900, two steam engines of 8 and 9 horse power, and a total of 22 employees, the company started producing ice on a commercial scale. The company’s first premises were located on Glennie Street, Slave Island and its popular name Ice Kompaniya was used locally to identify the area, Kompaniveediya.
The Colombo Ice Company acquired the medical hall of J Maitland, home to a variety of mediated wines and introduced aerated water with the distinctive “Elephant” trademark on the bottle, which later became “Elephant House” and since that time has remained as the household name for the brand. The company initially produced two types of carbonated drinks: soda and lemonade, both of which compared favorably at the time in international fairs in Melbourne and Calcutta, where they won awards.
The company, however, went into liquidation. Tom Walker, owner of a competing aerated water company purchased Colombo Ice Company, headed a syndicate that bought Colombo Ice Company, forming a new company under the name New Colombo Ice Company on 8 May 1894. He was the first managing director of the New Colombo Ice Company Limited.
In 1910 the New Colombo Ice Company bought the business and plant of one of its main competitors, the Galle Face Ice Company, from J. P. Motten for Rs. 45,000. In 1919, the company acquired Von Possner’s British Aerated and Mineral Water Company for Rs. 175,000.
Introduction of crown corks or crown caps to the local Aerated Water business in place of old rubber-ringed bottles began in 1921.
In 1923, the company purchased a new ice manufacturing plant which was driven by an internal combustion engine replacing its old ten-ton steam-driven plant. By 1925, the company moved on to build cold storage for frozen products of all kinds, opening new cold stores in Colombo on 1 December 1928. The same year the company purchased another smaller rival, the Pure Ice and Aerated Waters Manufactory.
In 1932, Ceylon Creameries Limited was acquired to produce and distribute reconstituted fresh milk and ice cream. Ice Cream in bulk form was produced in four-gallon buckets.
In 1934 the New Colombo Ice Company purchased Ceylon Ice and Cold Storage Company for Rs 850,000 and pioneered the import of frozen goods to Ceylon. A carbonic acid gas plant was installed in 1935 to make carbon dioxide and dry ice.
With the purchase of a bread-making machine and a modern oven, bread was baked and sold by the company. In addition, a cafe for cold beverages and ice cream was established at the Fountain House.
In 1941, New Colombo Ice Company changed its name to Ceylon Cold Stores Limited. CCL opened a new creamery and a new mineral water factory with increased production in 1950.
In 1964 Mallory Wijesinghe became its first Ceylonese chairman, revamping the cold storage facility and installation of a modern bottling line. Re-introduction of Ice Palam or Popsicle to the Ceylon frozen confectionery market.
In January 1970 the company was listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange. Ceylon Cold Stores came under the umbrella of John Keells Holdings Limited with the acquisition of the Whittalls Group in 1991.
In 1998 the company enhanced its production capacity considerably by installing a modern bottling plant at the Kaduwela factory. In 2007 John Keells Holdings reinvested close to one billion rupees in the installation of a state of the art factory line.
The Elephant House Brand was relaunched on 25th July 2010 followed by the introduction of cola brand KIK Cola in December. Also they introduced a new bottle shape for Elephant House beverages.
Since its inception, the Colombo Ice Company has been instrumental in up-scaling Ceylon’s infantile beverage and frozen confectionery industry, introducing new products, packaging, production and storage methods throughout the last one and a half centuries.
Having evolved with changing times and consumer patterns, including the end of British colonial rule, a bitterly fought world war, the industry nationalisation policy of local governments, and an open economy, Ceylon Cold Stores has come a long way from its humble beginnings as an ice and mineral water manufacturing company, meeting the challenges launched by global food and beverage giants within the food and beverage market in Sri Lanka.