|Type||Privately held company|
|Headquarters||Worcester, Massachusetts, USA|
|Key people||Ralph Crowley, Jr. Christopher Crowley, James (Jeff) Crowley, David Crowley, Carolyn Stimpson|
|Products||Polar Seltzers, Sodas and Mixers|
Polar Beverages is a fourth-generation, family-owned business that traces its roots back to 1882. It is based in Worcester, Massachusetts. The company is currently run by Ralph Crowley, Jr., the great-grandson of founder Dennis M. Crowley. It is the largest independent soft-drink bottler in the United States.
The company is a manufacturer and distributor of fruit-flavored sodas, seltzer, ginger ale, drink mixers, and spring water to customers in the northeastern United States. It markets beverages under its flagship brand, Polar Beverages, as well as the brands Adirondack and Cape Cod Dry. In addition to its own drinks, Polar bottles and distributes national brands such as A&W, Izze and Sunkist. The company has two bottling plants and six distribution facilities; it also offers corporate water services and beverage vending equipment.
Polar Beverages began as the J. G. Bieberbach Company, bottler of seltzers and ginger ale and distributor of imported mineral water. The company was also a wholesaler of alcoholic beverages. Prior to coming to Worcester, Mr. Bieberbach, the company’s founder, had immigrated to New York City from Germany, at the request of the Shafer Brewing Company, to help brew the first Pilsner beer in the United States.
1901 to 1940s 
In 1901, Dennis M. Crowley, the great grandfather of the present owners of Polar Beverages, founded D. M. Crowley & Co., a wholesale and retail liquor business. Dennis, also known as “Boss Crowley,” was a second-generation American. His parents emigrated from Ireland because of the Great Irish Famine. The top selling product in those days was Crowley’s Ball Brook Straight Whiskey. In 1916 the Crowleys acquired the J. G. Bieberbach Company. The combined wholesale-retail liquor companies were very successful. In 1918 Dennis continued to expand the business by purchasing the Leicester Polar Spring Company, and the combined businesses became known as the Bieber Polar Ginger Ale Company. Changes in our Nation’s capital greatly impacted Polar’s business. In the 1920s the 18th Amendment was added to The Constitution of the United States. This amendment prohibited the sale of alcohol, and thus Polar’s most profitable business was forced to cease, leaving Polar to focus on its ginger ale and spring water company. In 1933 the 18th Amendment was made null with the 21st Amendment, which allowed the Crowleys to resume their liquor business as “rectifiers and wholesalers;” however, the company remained focused on soft drinks and water as it is today.
In the early years of the company, the sale of bottled water accounted for a large percent of its business. The acquisition of the Leicester Polar Spring Company was important because its assets included the rights to the use of a pure spring located in Spencer, Massachusetts. This spring water was used for the company’s bottled water; and because of the exceptional quality of the spring water, flavored soft drinks were added to the plant's production. Among the first flavors produced were Golden Ginger Ale and Pale Dry Ginger Ale.
The company’s headquarters remained at the site of the old Bieberbach firm at 113 Summer Street, Worcester, until 1968. At various times in the company’s history, Polar’s beverages were bottled at other Polar- owned plants in Boston, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; and warehouse was maintained in Springfield, Massachusetts.
1940 to 1970s 
After serving in various branches of the military during World War II, the third generation of Crowleys became involved in Polar. The four Crowley brothers, Ralph, Edward, James and Denis, led the company. Entrepreneurial Chairman Ralph accepted and thrived in the lead management position. Many changes took place at Polar during the 1960s and 1970’s. In 1966 the Polar Ginger Ale Company was renamed Polar Corp. to correct the impression that the company only produced ginger ale. Technical advances in bottling machinery modernized the business. One of the most significant events was in 1968 when Polar moved to its current location on Route 290 and built today’s modern plant. This allowed other facilities to be consolidated into the Worcester plant, ideally located at the cross roads of Routes 290, 146, 90 and 495, the heart of Polar’s Northeast marketplace.
Ralph remained Chairman until his death in 1995.
1980 to 1990s 
In 1992 the fourth generation took over with Ralph Crowley, Jr., becoming President and CEO. Under his leadership, Polar made numerous acquisitions for the rights to manufacture and distribute National brands such as 7Up, A&W, Sunkist, Seagrams, Royal Crown and Diet Rite. In 1999 his brother Christopher became Executive Vice President & Treasurer. Both Ralph and Christopher remain today in these roles at Polar Beverages. James (Jeff) Crowley, David Crowley, and Carolyn Stimpson the three younger siblings are also involved with the company. The Crowley family also runs Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton, Massachusetts.
Under this fourth generation of Crowleys, Polar has undergone its most dramatic growth and change. In December 1996, Polar Beverages bought long-time competitor Adirondack Beverages in Scotia, New York, including its 650,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Adirondack’s product line includes Adirondack, Waist Watchers, Clear ‘n’ Natural as well as private-label brands.
Late 1990s to 2005 
By 1998, Polar had outgrown its Route 290 facility and began looking for a new location in the New England area. After much consideration and many offers by other states, Polar decided to remain in Worcester out of loyalty to its employees and the local community. Polar’s decision to remain in Worcester ensured continued employment for over 600 local employees. For Polar’s renovation and restoration of the former Cookson Performance Plastics plant on Southbridge Street, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce awarded Polar with the Silver Hammer Award. In May 1999 Polar Beverages acquired Venture Distributing, the leading new-age distributor in the Boston marketplace. Venture’s portfolio included brands such as Nantucket Nectars and AriZona. This acquisition was followed shortly in 2001 with the purchase of Snapple of Boston and then Snapple of Cape Cod in 2005. By the end of the turn of the Twentieth Century, Polar had become a “super regional” beverage company. Polar had completed over thirty acquisitions expanding into five divisions and now consisting of proprietary brands Polar, Adirondack, Waist Watcher and Clear ‘n’ Natural and National brands 7Up, A&W, Sunkist, Seagrams, Royal Crown and Diet Rite along with new-age brands Snapple, AriZona, Fiji Water, O Water, HyDrive and Nantucket Nectars in addition to retailer private-label brands and finally home and office water.
Polar In the New Century 
In September 2001 Polar Beverages formed a joint venture with Cott Corporation. The partnership is known as Northeast Retailer Brands, LLC. This joint-venture partnership produces and distributes most of the retailer branded beverages in the Northeast. In 2007, Polar Beverages marked its 125th year in the beverage industry. Polar used this milestone as a time to remember its modest beginnings in 1882 and to celebrate the company’s heritage. Throughout all the changes Polar has undergone, it has maintained its commitment to its associates, the community and its consumers by providing the highest quality, healthy and unique beverages available today.
The Crowley family members were recipients of The Harvey Ball Smile Award in 2010. The award is presented by the Worcester Historical Museum to “an individual, organization, or group of individuals whose commitments have made a difference in the City of Worcester … and helped people throughout the community smile.” The award is named after the creator of the famed Smiley Face.
Orson the bear 
A polar bear named Orson has been the company's mascot since 1902. Next to the company's billboard near I-290 in Worcester, there is a large inflatable version of Orson, which can be seen smiling and "waving" to passersby, who will also notice that the oversized bear is tied down securely by wire, not only to keep the bear in place during rough weather, but also to prevent theft. Orson has sometimes been stolen by local fraternities as a prank.
Conflict with Coca-Cola 
In 1994 Polar made a TV commercial where a polar bear considers drinking a Coke, but throws it into a recycling bin marked, "Keep the Arctic pure." The polar bear then reaches down into the freezing, Arctic water and pulls out a can of Polar Seltzer and drinks contentedly. Coca-Cola filed a motion for the injunction against Polar in United States District Court in Boston contending that the commercial made Coke's product appear impure.
The US district court granted the Company's motion because the commercial "implied that Coke [was] not pure," misrepresented the nature and quality of Coke, thereby potentially harming the soft drink irreparably.
The injunction handed down required Polar Corporation to revise the ad. According to Polar, the judge's ruling affirmed the right of Polar to use a polar bear in its ads, but limited them from discarding the Coke can.
- "History". Polarbev.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- "Top 25 Bottlers Report 2007"[dead link]
- "Hoover's Company Profiles". Hoovers.com. 2010-10-21. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- "Crowleys all smiles for Harvey Ball award - Worcester Telegram & Gazette". telegram.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- Martin Griff. "Wind mills keep on turning; Proud Crowleys keep on earning | NJ.com". Blog.nj.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- "History". Polarbev.com. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- "The Polar Bear That Has Coke Steaming". Businessweek. 1995-01-15. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- "Goliath: Business knowledge on Demand". Goliath.ecnext.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- Cocaine-Cola, the Velvet Elvis, and Anti-Barbie: Defending the Trademark and Publicity Rights to Cultural Icons. Steven M. Cordero. Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, 1998
- "Ruling Revises Polar Bear Ad". New York Times. 1995-01-03. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- Polar Beverages - Official website
- PSBC - The Painted Soda Bottle Collectors Association
- Wachusett Mountain - Facts & History