Soft drink factory Noca-Nola managed to keep Coca-Cola away from South Limburg for a long time

In the courtyard of the former soft drink company L. Moulen, Desiree Moulen shows a notarial deed from 1937. It is an agreement between this small Limburg company and the large American Coca-Cola, whereby the village factory adapts to the multinational.

For Desiree, the founder’s great-granddaughter, her family’s lemonade factory as a child was mainly the place where she could play between the crates and pallets. “And where you could drink nice lemonade.” Now she and her partner Edwin Martirosian have plans to start a business here, following in the footsteps of great-grandfather Leo: a mineral water tasting and a mini-museum. The most remarkable and heroic story in this permanent exhibition will be that of Noca-Nola versus Coca-Cola.

“The pearl of all non-alcoholic table drinks,” promised the labels of Noca-Nola, introduced in 1922. And: “Great taste, easy to digest and healthy. Refreshing and recommended for young and old, cyclists, gymnasts and sports enthusiasts.” The image of a muscular, mustachioed man was supposed to reinforce the health claim.

Businessman Leo Moulen in front of his soda factory.

Photo from family archive, date unknown

In terms of taste, Noca-Nola was nothing like Coca-Cola. The product from Voerendaal was more like your average fruit lemonade. The brand name resembled that of the American competitor, and that was no coincidence. A friend tipped Leo Moulen about the increasing popularity of Coca-Cola in the United States in the early 1920s. De Limburger decided to get ahead of the drink’s Atlantic crossing and registered the brand name Noca-Nola for his own product.


Coca-Cola seized the opportunity of the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam to conquer the Dutch market with its product. In doing so, it came across Moulen and his Noca-Nola. The two companies split the market. Noca-Nola got the area in a radius of fifty kilometers around Voerendaal, Coca-Cola the rest of the Netherlands.

In the course of the 1930s, Moulen defied the Americans even further by no longer selling his drink in the previously common swing-top bottles, but in tailored bottles. They were very similar to Coca-Cola’s. That company eventually made a deal with Moulen to end Noca-Nola. De Limburger received ten thousand guilders and the right to distribute Coca-Cola in his region.

De Moulens continued to produce soft drinks in Voerendaal. Their brand Komol in particular was a household name in Limburg.

Desiree (left) and Deborah Moulen, the great-granddaughters of Leo Moulen.

“It is actually a miracle what the company has survived: two wars, former employee Herman Schiffers who started his own soft drink factory under the name Herschi in nearby Hoensbroek, the mine closures and especially the increasing competition from multinationals,” sums up Deborah Weimer- Mold on.

“The end came in 2005,” says her sister Desiree Moulen. “Even with all the buffalo of relatives, it was no longer possible to cope. European regulations increasingly demanded. To save it, investments were needed that were no longer financially viable.”

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mineral water

Leo Moulen started in 1907 with a mineral water factory on Heerlerweg in Voerendaal. You could easily call this an act of defiance against his father, a farmer in the same village: he was an alcoholic.

The young Moulen, before starting as an entrepreneur, drove miners to and from the shafts where they went down by horse-drawn cart. There he had also seen how thirsty they surfaced after a service in the dust-filled underground corridors. So there had to be a market for his products. He himself struck the well that brought up his water.

Moulen did not stop at this product. He also introduced a lemonade especially for the miners in his area: Glück Auf Perle. Business went well. Moulen initially sold his goods with a dog cart, but from 1920 he was allowed to call himself one of the first owners of a car in Voerendaal. Many cars would follow, one more beautiful than the other. That range of vehicles also had to do with Moulen’s lack of driving capabilities. As well as he could handle horses, that’s how much trouble he had with the horsepower of his cars, according to family lore. He regularly destroys one.

Bottles of soft drinks Komol. The brand was a household name in Limburg.
Photos Chris Cologne

The family photos from the golden years radiate prosperity. Leo Moulen and his wife pose with their ever-expanding family: ten children. The entrepreneur was a notable in Voerendaal, not only someone with beautiful cars, but also with something special like a telephone connection (the number: 15).

Family Heritage

Desiree and Deborah’s grandmother lived in the house in front of the factory that had been vacant since 2005 until her death in 2017. Desiree: “After her death, the question was what to do with the family heritage. It would be a shame to let the special story go to waste.”

Desiree Moulen and her partner Edwin decided to exchange their current home and workplace in Groningen for Voerendaal. In order to realize the plans, the necessary relatives had to be bought out: there were 32 heirs. Now it is waiting for the necessary permits from the municipality.

Refurbishing the complex will be a multi-year plan. They get a few authentic elements as a gift: the old water well (Desiree’s uncle got it working again), advertising paintings at the entrance gate and the strong man of the Noca-Nola label in stained glass above the front door.

Moulen and Martirosian want to work slowly from front to back. The mineral water tasting and the mini-museum around the courtyard are given priority. Only later will the restoration and repurposing of the old factory complex take place. Desiree Moulen: „I think it would be nice to start selling more products from this region there. And maybe we can bring one or more of our own old soft drinks back to life, too. The secret recipes are still there.”

Soft drink factory Noca-Nola managed to keep Coca-Cola away from South Limburg for a long time
Source link Soft drink factory Noca-Nola managed to keep Coca-Cola away from South Limburg for a long time

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