The Launch: Canada meets Orange Meat

Michael Peters Orange Meat

Up until this point, the story has focused on the Frontenac Cereal Company and the cast of characters surrounding it. But at long last, we are approaching the unveiling of the Orange Meat brand itself.

Sources indicate that Orange Meat cereal began to hit local grocery store shelves in Kingston in mid-October 1903. 

Local grocers advertise Orange Meat in the Daily Whig (October 1903)Sources indicate that production started slowly, initially producing around 500 cases a day, just enough to supply the sales team as they spread out across the country. While the major national push seemed to begin later in the month, it seems like Kingston grocers began to get their hands on this early supply a couple of weeks early. 

That week several local grocers took out advertising of their own that specifically referenced the new product.

Mr. John Gilbert, Grocer and Tea merchant, seems to have been the first to reveal the product to Kingston residents, in print at any rate, on Monday, October 12, 1903, beating his competitors to the punch by several days. With a shop at the corner of Gore and Wellington, just a short walk from the mill, he was likely particularly well acquainted with the comings and goings of the Frontenac Cereal Company.  

Orange Meat Launch Ad - Windsor Star (December 1903)Mr. Gilbert infuses his support for the venture with a missionary zeal, "May blessing fall on each and all who rightly use the means entrusted, especially on those who wish to build up our city and buy goods manufactured here. Try Orange Meats."

Other local grocers were quick to follow. Jas Redden & Co., on the 16th, advertised "The latest and greatest breakfast food. Made in Kingston. Buy it. Eat it." 

VanLuvens on Princess Street, perhaps the most prominent Kingston grocer at the time, also cut to the chase: "Made in Canada. Best of all made in Kingston''. The Daily Memoranda in the Whig lists "The new orange meat at Vanluven's" on Saturday, October 17, 1903, which seems to be the first date we can definitively confirm that Orange Meat cereal was available to purchase by the general public.

While we will explore Orange Meat promotions in more detail in the future, it is interesting to note that this advertisement references their "Silver Plated" spoon giveaway promotion, which was ready to go at launch. 

Outside of Kingston, the major marketing push began in the Canadian Grocer magazine, a trade publication published out of Toronto. 

Orange Meat Launch Ad - Canadian Grocer (October 1903)

Interestingly, the Canadian Grocer was the first publication produced by Lieutenant Colonel John Bayne Maclean, who would later publish Maclean's Magazine and the Financial Post. The Canadian Grocer is still published today, over 130 years later, albeit under the auspices of an American market research company. 

Most of the issues from the early 1900s have been digitized and preserved, making it an amazing resource for tracking early Canadian manufacturers and their heritage brands.  

It is also a remarkable publication that is highly visual by standards of the day, with high-quality images of product advertisements and packaging, including color plates, which was very unusual at the time. 

Speaking directly to small grocers across the country, it isn't surprising that many brands used it to launch their new brands and advertising campaigns. After all, this was before the internet, television, or commercial radio. The attractiveness of the box as it appeared in grocery displays was of critical importance.

So, the October 20, 1903 issue of Canadian Grocer magazine was the home for the first unveiling of the Orange Meat brand to grocers across Canada. It included an impressive color plate showing off the packaging to retailers across the country. It remains the best image preserving how the box looked. I am unaware of any surviving examples of the packaging itself.

We can confirm from other local newspapers that Orange Meat successfully launched throughout the province over the next couple of weeks, including a strong presence in Windsor and Ottawa. By mid-December, the Canadian Grocer was reporting the appearance of Orange Meat in Atlantic Canada, followed by Western Canada early in the new year.  

Stay tuned as we continue to piece together this amazing piece of lost history. 

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