Saint John Celebrates Three Innovators As Old As Canada Itself

Image: Allan Gates/Huddle Today

One-hundred-and-fifty years is a long time, especially in business. But three companies with roots in the Saint John area are being honoured by the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce for being as old as Canada itself. Moosehead Breweries, G.E. Barbours and Source Atlantic all turn 150 too this year.

All three will be celebrated at a sold-out dinner tonight at the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal. There will also be fireworks over the inner harbour at 9:30 pm.

Innovation is important in any business, new or more established, but to make it 150 years, there’s no question that it’s crucial to survival.

So we asked the three companies to share a key moment of innovation in their history:


Image: YouTube

The brewery is obviously a cultural icon in New Brunswick, but the company didn’t get there without continuously innovating their product offerings and reaching beyond the province to new markets.

“I’m proud to say my family business pioneered draught technology, introduced the region’s first Lager beer ‘Alpine’, and were the first to believe consumers prefer to buy their beer pre-chilled and therefore opened the Cold Beer Store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – the first retail store to stock beer in supermarket-grade refrigerated display cases and use a convenient drive-through window,” says Andrew Oland, president & CEO of Moosehead Breweries.

“With that said, of all the modern-era corporate decisions Moosehead has made in the last 150 years, I believe it was the work of my father, Derek Oland, which I would consider most innovative. It was his creation of Moosehead Lager in a green bottle with the now iconic moose label and its successful entry into the United States market in 1978 which propelled Moosehead to the international stage and created a beloved Canadian beer and company.”

G.E. Barbours 

The first Barbours location at Market Slip (now Market Square) in Saint John (Image: Barbours family collection)

It’s tough for president and CEO Sylvia MacVey to pick just one key moment of innovation. She says the company’s success is due to its strong ability to continuously pivot to the next opportunity. Two examples of this stick out in her mind.

“If I go back to the early 20th century, the big pivot would have been [the company going] from importer wholesaler to food manufacturing, particularly when we became essentially a tea company. That would be an amazing pivot, the purchasing and driving of King Cole,” says MacVey.

“A very recent pivot would be in the last five years is our becoming a very strong exporter in the nut butter business.”

Source Atlantic

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Source Atlantic has had many historical and innovation milestones, but perhaps their most important one was at the beginning of the 21st century when the Source Atlantic brand was first created.

“Source Atlantic, the brand itself, is a fairly young brand. It basically was started in 2001 when we brought quite a few companies together and acquired a few more. At that point, we were serving the same customer base with different customer products and services. So I would say that was a key moment of innovation because we created a model that’s really not found anywhere else in North America,” says marketing manager Christina Goguen.

“That really set the tone for what Source Atlantic the company is today. I think when you look at how we maintained and stayed in business, it’s those kinds of things, but that has been the largest epiphany, the largest opportunity and will really sustain us for a long time in the future.”

Check out the historical timeline of Source Atlantic on its website. It tells a compelling story of the company dating back to the Thorne’s original family business.

We’ve also profiled both Moosehead and G.E. Barbours in the last year:

Barbours: A Name as Old as Canada
Andrew Oland Leads Moosehead Forward