This year marks an important milestone in the business history of the community. It was 100 years ago, in April 1911 that Red Deer Bottling first commenced operations.
The company was established by A.J. Pingrey and F.L. Brown.
Originally from Kansas, they established their plant on Gaetz Ave. south of Alexander (48) St.
While they manufactured a number of soft drinks and aerated waters, their prize product was ‘Jersey Crème’ which they described as a “Pleasant and healthful beverage.”
The First World War and its aftermath brought enormous challenges. During the War, there was strict rationing of sugar. After the War, local unemployment soared to more than 20%.
Money became very tight. People only spent what they absolutely had to.
In March 1927, Con and Natale Maggiora reestablished Red Deer Bottling. Originally from northern Italy, the two brothers had run soft drink manufacturing plants in British Columbia.
The new Red Deer plant was initially located in the old Palace Livery building on the south side of First Street South (49 St.) west of Gaetz Ave.
The Maggioras saw prohibition, with its severe restrictions on alcohol as a wonderful opportunity to sell soft drinks, which they said could be “Used for the benefit of all without any deleterious results.”
The timing of their arrival in Red Deer was also excellent. In the summer of 1927, there were extensive celebrations of the Diamond (60th) Anniversary of Confederation. A lot of soft drinks were consumed at the various events.
Consequently, in 1928, Red Deer Bottling moved to better premises in a two-storey brick building on Gaetz Ave. and Second Street South (48 St.) immediately south of the Eaton’s Store.
Red Deer Bottling’s specialties in those days were Delaware Punch, a grape drink, an ‘extra special’ ginger beer made from Jamaica ginger and a variety of lemon, orange and cream sodas.
In 1933, Romano Truant, formerly of Nordegg, Alberta, bought out Natale Maggiora.
In 1934, he purchased the remaining shares of the business from Con Maggiora. New products included Calade, a ‘nectar of tree-ripe oranges’ and Canuck Dry Ginger Ale.
In 1936, the business had the beginnings of a big boost when the Coca Cola franchise was secured.
However, because of the Great Depression, there was a slow start to this new venture. Only eight gallons of syrup were used in the first six months, even though a bottle of Coke was only five cents.
Fortunately, things soon picked up. Within a year, more than 100 gallons of syrup were used.
The Second World War brought a new set of challenges. Again there was rationing of sugar. Nevertheless, with large numbers of military personnel training at the A-20 Army Camp in Red Deer and at the Penhold Airbase and with many others moving to the community, business flourished.
In January of 1942, Red Deer Bottling moved to a new brick building on the corner of Gaetz Ave. and 46 St.
At the official opening, 1,188 bottles of Coke were handed out to more than 800 children and a number of adults.
The good times continued after the War. Romano Truant was joined in the business by his two sons, Alfio and Dino. The Gaetz Ave. plant was expanded in 1953.
In 1968, another plant was purchased in Drumheller.
In 1976, the company discontinued bottling operations and moved to a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse and distribution centre in the Golden West Industrial area. With the addition of even more new products and with a tremendous increase in business, another move followed in 1986 to a 24,000 sq. ft. building on a five-acre site at 6730 64 Ave.
In 2001, Red Deer Bottling moved to an impressive new facility in the Edgar Industrial Park. The company now markets more than 50 different flavours of soft drinks. A separate company, M.A.C. Munchies also supplies vending machines throughout Central Alberta.
Over the decades, Red Deer Bottling has remained one of the most respected businesses in Central Alberta. It has been twice named as Red Deer’s Business of the Year. Moreover, the three generations of the Truant family have built an excellent reputation for volunteerism and commitment to the community.