Four generations of the Crowley family have owned and operated Polar Beverages since 1882, transforming a humble spring water business into the largest independent bottling company in the United States.
Students in Digital Marketing Analytics, a course taught by School of Management Associate Professor Atefeh Yazdanparast, were recently paid a visit by Polar CEO Ralph Crowley Jr., MBA ’78, grandson of Polar’s founder, Dennis Crowley. He described the company’s path toward growth, noting that Polar seized on people’s desire for “drinks to do something for them” and created a hugely popular line of seltzers in addition to their sodas.
Polar now makes private label brands for major supermarket chains like Shaw’s and Stop & Shop, he said, and looks for opportunities to continue growing the business, such as partnering with competitors like KDP (Keurig Dr. Pepper).
Crowley credits his marketing department with “brilliant moves,” like introducing seasonal and other specialty seltzer flavors. The Unicorn Kisses flavor, he said, generated such advance buzz that people were waiting outside stores to buy it.
He also talked to the students about trends in the beverage industry, describing current consumers as very adventurous. Polar, he said, has been innovative and nimble with its strategy of launching new flavors twice a year.
Asked how the company weathered the pandemic, Crowley noted that the company was able to manage through the periodic shortage and price increases for materials and ingredients — and that Polar was proud to have not laid off a single employee during the pandemic.