Jianlibao 健力宝

13 Oct

Li and I were having lunch one day recently and he was drinking coconut juice.  He was telling me that this brand of juice was a very famous brand and when he was a child it was a real treat.  Then he said – “But the most common choice was “Jianlibao” – it was China’s Coca Cola.  I haven’t seen Jianlibao in a long time.  I wonder what happened to it?”

That set us off on an internet search.  It’s really a pretty interesting story.

Founded in 1984, Jianlibao Group was China’s major softdrink provider – dominating the market through the late 80s and 90s.  The major flavor was orange and it spread very quickly through the market.  Li said that growing up in his hometown you had heard of Coca Cola, but what you drank was Jianlibao.  If you translate the name it literally translates into Healthy, Strong, Treasure – not a bad name for a drink.

So what happened? 

When Li was a kid – the company was a state owned enterprise, so the leadership were actually government officials.  The founder was eventually subjected to internal interrogation by the communist party and was asked to leave the organization.  Previously the company had gone to the markets for investment and expanded very quickly – even opening an office in New York City, but poor money management and possible embezzlement  led to the company’s disappearance and eventual absorption into a Taiwanese company in 2007.  In 2005, with over 1 billion RMB in debt, for all intensive purposes it stopped its distribution in China.  The then CEO was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Li says he can’t remember the last time that he saw the soft drink.  It was funny how the coconut juice triggered our search.  I wonder how many other State Owned Enterprises have disappeared in the last decade, a result of the change and intense competition in China?  If something that common disappeared in your own home, would you notice?

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2 Responses to “Jianlibao 健力宝”

  1. valerie October 13, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    I would notice if it was something that memorable. There was a chocolate syrup that I always had at my grandma’s and it was a syrup that my mom grew up with. It def made the best chocolate milk, better than nestle’s quik! But I can never find that syrup anymore — it came in a glass jar with a yellow label and it was sooo tasty. If I do ever see it again, I would snatch up an entire crate.

    • gkm2011 October 15, 2011 at 7:55 am #

      I think you have a better memory than most. It’s amazing how day to day life can overwhelm certain memories if we’re not careful.

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