Seven Seas – Made In Yorkshire | Volume 16

What is Seven Seas?

Seven Seas is a cod liver oil company who produce vitamins and supplements for the whole of the United Kingdom and Worldwide. Learn about the history of cod liver oil and how it became what it is today.

The Beginning

Both Nordic and Scottish fishermen have been using cod liver oil for centuries. They understood the benefits of using cod liver oil.

In the eighteenth century, scientific research endorsed its medical properties. They found it helps combat the effects of malnutrition.

At first, Dr Kay used it as medicine. He worked in the Manchester Infirmary.

The original 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.

In the 1850’s, there was a new discovery. This was to steam the livers to create a greater yield.

This cod liver oil had a paler colour. However, the nasty taste and smell was still there.

By the 1920’s, scientists found another discovery. Cod liver oil had more health benefits.

It contained Vitamin A, Vitamin D and polyunsaturated fats. This led to health professionals recommend it as a prevention rather than a cure.

Early in the 1930’s, Boyd Line Ltd, Hudson Brothers Ltd, and Hellyer Brothers Ltd experimented. They were a group of trawler companies operating 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 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, the company made a range of oils. These were for the 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, the business outgrew its original offices on the south side of St Andrews Dock in Hull. This led them to move to a new refinery at Marfleet on the edge of the city.

Later that year, Ken Moxley, a former employees 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. It was now being sold in small bottles as Seven Seas.

Becoming what it is today

They created a huge marketing campaign with the company. This caused the company to create ‘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’.

They drove this around the country. This promoted Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil.

Later that year, cod liver oil was distributed to set people free of charge as part of the Ministry of Food’s Welfare Food Scheme. It was given to pregnant women, new mothers and children under 5.

During the Second World War, demand grew. It grew so much that trawlers from Hull and Grimsby could not supply enough oil.

They imported supplies from Iceland. However, demand continued to increase.

Throughout the second half of the Twentieth Century the business expanded. They made margarine, industrial products, vitamins and health supplements.

Danish scientists, Band and Dyerberg, carried out a study mid 1970’s. They based it on Inuits in Greenland.

It was suggested that a high diet of fish containing a chemical known as Omega-3 was beneficial. It reduces cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the risk of a heart attack.

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

Cod Liver Oil was being tested on arthritis patients. It was found to help ease their condition affecting their joints. In 2002, scientists proved and widely agreed this helped.

In 1996, a German pharmaceutical company, called Merck KgaA, bought Seven Seas Ltd. It still operates from its Hull offices supplying health supplements across the world.