Pop-ular Seaman’s Beverages go back 83 years
Posted on October 21, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments
A sip of Seaman’s Ginger Brew, Olde Fashioned Orange or Lime Rickey could take you back over 80 years. Although the family-owned soda business is no longer operating, fandom for Seaman’s Beverages remains.
Seaman’s Beverages was founded by Francis Rundell (F.R.) Seaman in 1939 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Seaman started the business after years of experience making soda at J. & T. Morris’ Peerless Beverages. From an old brick building on Water Street (that was also his home), F.R. Seaman produced his own brand of pop and personally delivered products to stores in his Ford Jalopy.
A year later, Seaman’s wife Jean joined the business and the couple expanded Seaman’s Beverages through product innovation and acquiring bottling rights.
Together, the Seamans collaborated to create two new flavours in 1940: Lime Rickey and Grapefruit and Lime (Jean’s favourites) and continued experimenting with different combinations. In 1947, they also acquired rights to produce Red Rock Cola. Seaman’s Ford Jalopy was eventually replaced with proper delivery trucks and by 1949 they had a fleet of five trucks and delivery had expanded to Summerside and West Prince.
While the production of Red Rock Cola brought some initial success, there was heavy competition with better-known Coca-Cola, which was being produced locally by J. & T. Morris Ltd. So, in 1952 Seaman’s Beverages acquired bottling rights for Pepsi-Cola products and ended their relationship with Red Rock.
A new glass
Pepsi was sold in a larger 10-ounce bottle for the same price as Coke’s 7-ounce bottle, so producing Pepsi products served Seaman’s well. As the business continued to grow, Seaman’s had to expand its facilities and significantly renovated its original building over the years. However, after J. & T. Morris shut down soda production, Seaman’s needed an even larger space to meet demand. In 1988, they relocated from their building on Water Street to at 44,000 square foot bottling plant on Fourth Street.
Over time, P.E.I. became known as “Pepsi Country”, with Pepsi products outselling Coke at a ratio of five to one. Pepsi encouraged Seaman’s to solely produce its products, however, the family business refused and continued to expand its own brand. By the late ‘90s, Seaman’s Beverages had 95 employees and 11 flavours of Seaman’s-brand soda throughout the Maritimes, Toronto and Montreal.
Seaman’s Beverages remained a family-owned and operated business until 2002 when Rundell Seaman (son of F.R. Seaman) sold the company to The Pepsi Bottling Group. After taking over operations, Pepsi reduced the number of Seaman’s flavours first to four or five, then to two over time. In 2020, production ceased on Olde Fashioned Orange and Ginger Ale, Seaman’s final remaining sodas.
The news that Seaman’s would no longer be available was disappointing for many on the island who grew up with their products. One islander started a Facebook group in support of saving Seaman’s and Double Hill Cidery contacted Pepsi about reviving the brand. While Seaman’s products remain discontinued, islanders are hopeful that the brand will reappear in the future.
Still with some pop, 83 years later.
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