The History of Seven Seas & Where it is Now

What is Seven Seas?

Seven Seas is a popular cod liver oil company. They produce vitamins and supplements for the whole of the United Kingdom and Worldwide.

Discover the history of cod liver oil and how it became what it is today.

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The Beginning of Seven Seas

It’s been discovered that Nordic and Scottish fishermen have been using cod liver oil for centuries. Even at that time they understood the benefits of using cod liver oil.

In the eighteenth century, scientific research endorsed its medical properties. After researching, scientists found that it helps combat the effects of malnutrition.

When cod liver oil was first used, a man called Dr Kay often used it as a medicine. At the time, Dr Kay worked in the Manchester Infirmary.

The original cod liver oil was a dark liquid that had a fishy smell and taste. It was made by separating the cod’s livers and leaving them in a barrel to rot until the oil naturally separated.

During the 1850’s, a new discovery was made. It was found that steaming the livers created a greater yield.

As a result, the cold liver oil had a paler colour. Despite the oil looking more appealing, the nasty fishy taste and smell was still there.

By the 1920’s, scientists had gone on to make another discovery. They found that cod liver oil had more health benefits then they first realised.

Cod liver oil contains Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and polyunsaturated fats. This led to health professionals recommending it as a prevention rather than a cure.

Early in the 1930’s, Boyd Line Ltd, Hudson Brothers Ltd, and Hellyer Brothers Ltd started to experiment. They were a group of trawler companies that operated out of Hull.

The limited businesses boiled the livers on board the trawlers out at sea while they were fresh. The oil had such a high quality that the companies formed a cooperative – British Cod Liver Oil Producers (Hull) Ltd.

The company’s first chairman was called Owen Hellyer. He was aided in the production of oils by several people.

These included Ernest Dawson, John Spencer and Charles Spencer – who had been drafted in from Isaac Spencer & Co (Aberdeen) Ltd. John F Ward from Crookes Laboratories, and Professor John Drummond who all brought their own skills and expertise in oil production.

A product created by Seven Seas, Pixaway, No Attribution, Public Domain
A product created by Seven Seas, Pixaway, No Attribution, Public Domain

Originally, this new company made a range of oils. These were for steel rolling, tanning hides, and animal feeds.

The company focused most of its effort on the production of cod liver oil. In 1935, they produced veterinary quality cod liver oil commercially under the name Solvitax.

Soon after, the business outgrew its original offices on the south side of St Andrews Docks in Hull. This led them to move to a new refinery at Marfleet on the edge of the city.

Later on in the same year, Ken Moxley, a former employee of the Hull Fish Mean and Oil Company, came up with an idea. This was to market cod liver oil in attractive display bottles.

By 1936, pharmaceutical quality cod liver oil was being marketed. As a result it was being sold in small bottles as ‘Seven Seas’.

How Seven Seas became what it is today

The company decided to create a huge marketing campaign. In turn, this resulted in the company creating ‘King Cod’.

‘King Cod’ is a large wooden canvas fish. It was placed on top of wagons along with a loud speaker playing ‘A Life On The Ocean Wave’.

These wagons were being driven around the country. While they were distributing their products, they were also promoting ‘Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil’.

Later that year, cod liver oil was distributed to certain people for free as part of the Ministry of Food’s Welfare Food Scheme. These were pregnant women, new mothers, and kids under 5.

During the Second World War, demand for cod liver oil grew. It grew so much that trawlers from Hull and Grimsby couldn’t supply enough oil.

As a result, the company decided to start importing supplies from Iceland. However, the demand for cod liver oil continued to increase.

Throughout the second half of the 20th Century, the business expanded. They started making margarine, industrial products, vitamins, and health supplements.

During the mid 1970’s, Danish scientists Band and Dyerberg decided to carry out a study. They based it on Inuits in Greenland.

The study suggests that a high diet of fish containing a chemical known as Omega-3 was extremely beneficial. It reduces cholesterol in the bloodstream and in turn lowers the risk of a heart attack.

This information helped Seven Seas to develop their products further. In 1982, they launched a new range of natural fish oils that were available on prescription.

During this time, cod liver oil was being tested on arthritis patients which was found to help ease their condition that affected their joints. In 2002, scientists proved and widely agreed this helped.

In 1996, a German pharmaceutical company called Merck Group bought Seven Seas Ltd. After being bought, it continued to operate from its Hull offices which supply health supplements across the world.

Where is Seven Seas now?

During 2015, the company’s Hull manufacturing facility closed. As a result, their sales and marketing moved to Merck Group headquarters located in London.

A year later in 2016, the company became the biggest over the counter medicine sold in Britain. They brought in £25.7million that year alone.

In 2019, Merck Group was bought by Procter & Gamble. Along with it went Seven Seas allowing them to continue supplying their supplements worldwide.