The influence of Seald Sweet on the history of citrus is as undeniable as the citrus industry’s mark on the the State of Florida, the nation, and the world.
At the turn of the 20th Century and until Seald Sweet’s original organization was founded, family, friends and neighbors haphazardly picked and packed a grower’s crop under tarps or in crude sheds, resulting in a high percentage of rot and decay from poor handling.
Picking, packing, and quality issues were only some of the many challenges faced by early citrus growers. They also had to sell their own crops and transport them to market using poor equipment on bad or non-existent roads. They knew little about culture and cultivation; manure was the preferred fertilizer at the time. As demand for citrus grew, so grew the concerns of citrus growers.
On June 21, 1909, a group of growers and businessmen established the Florida Citrus Exchange in Tampa, Florida, later known as Seald Sweet.
The exchange united many – if not most – Florida growers into one cooperative marketing agency. This helped improve production by sharing facilities, technology and manpower, and it helped maximize returns on citrus growers’ investment, standardize operations and shipping, and increase collective volumes for nationwide marketing.
For about 20 years, the Florida Citrus Exchange was the only collective grower organization representing Florida growers.
Originally, the name “Seald-Sweet” was among the exchange’s many trademarked and highly guarded brands, along with Florigold and Mor-Juice. Eventually Seald Sweet became nearly synonymous with Florida citrus.
Members began to build packinghouses and standardize grading and packing methods in the years following the organization's creation. The implementation of better grading resulted in a finer quality of fruit offered in the nation's markets. Better fruit inspired the development of two nationally known trademarked brands of Florida Citrus -- Seald Sweet and Mor-Juice.
To ensure that quality fruit would be available to the efficient packinghouses in the Exchange, new methods to prevent damage were established including the use of clippers, bags, and gloves.
Shipping fruit to the nation's market was the next procedure to be scrutinized. Investigation found a gross waste of perishable citrus when shipped in ordinary box cars, and so refrigerated fruit cars were pressed into service. Another quality assurance strategy pioneered by the Exchange was the cooling of citrus before loading, an industry practice that remains common today.
As a part of its extensive services to growers, the Exchange developed traffic alliances with several other industries. Through cooperation with railroads, steamships, and other transportation means, better methods of shipping citrus were utilized. An important element of the system included procedures for filing claims against transportation agencies when warranted, by which the growers receive returns for revenues lost through no fault of their own.
In the past, citrus fruits were considered a luxury or a special holiday treat, and it's health benefits went largely unrecognized. The Exchange launched its most successful promotional campaign to date, using scientific and health-oriented appeals to the customer.
To celebrate the grower-owned cooperative's 50th anniversary, the Florida Citrus Exchange's name became Seald Sweet Growers, Inc. to link the groups highest quality and renowned label.
In 1998, Seald Sweet joined with De Weide Blik, a Belgian holding company, creating Seald Sweet LLC. De Weide Blik, which means "the wider view" specializes in the processing, trading, production, and distribution of a wide range of produce. This company includes Botman International, the dominant exporter of Dutch vegetables to North America.
Seald Sweet continues to expand its marketing of fruits and vegetables in North America and around the world.