Buffalo Rock Company
The Buffalo Rock Company is a family-owned beverage bottler and distributor with more than 2,100 employees. It is headquartered at 111 Oxmoor Road in Homewood, and operates 14 distribution centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
Buffalo Rock is the maker of Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale and, since 1951, the Birmingham-area bottler and distributor of Pepsi-Cola products. The CEO of Buffalo Rock is James C. Lee III, and its president is Matthew Dent.
Buffalo Rock started as an outgrowth the Alabama Grocery Company, founded in 1901 with the merger of of Sidney W. Lee's McMillan-Lee Grocery Company with the rival Simmons-Durham Grocery Company. Lee worked with Selma pharmacist Ashby Coleman to develop his ginger-based antiemetic preparation into a carbonated beverage. He chose the name "Buffalo Rock" for the sight of a bison standing atop a boulder that he had personally noted on a trip to the West and associated with the American frontier. With investments from bankers Erskine Ramsay, George McCormack and Henry Badham Sr, Lee opened a small bottling plant on 1st Avenue North. Their product was an immediate local success with soda shops selling Buffalo Rock floats and saloons mixing the soda into their own concoctions. By 1916 the bottler was delivering ginger ale beyond the borders of Jefferson County.
The company moved to a larger production and bottling plant 26th Street and 10th Avenue North in 1922. A large electric sign crowned the plant. Lee dropped his grocery business and reorganized as the Buffalo Rock Company in 1927. In addition to Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale, the company produced and marketed Mission Orange, Mission Grape and B-1 soft drinks.
Lee's son James C. Lee passed the company to his son James Jr in 1951. During the same year, the company purchased the rights to Pepsi-Cola in Birmingham. It soon added Dr Pepper and Seven-Up to the product line. In 1966 the company moved to a 15-acre site on Oxmoor Road. (The facility has since expanded to 7 buildings on 50 acres).
In 1981 Buffalo Rock added Grapico to its stable of brands. In 1984 it pioneered the 3-liter bottle. Two years later it also pioneered the 20-can mini-case, followed by 12-ounce and 20-ounce plastic bottles. In 1986 Buffalo Rock added General Foods snack food vending distribution to its business, and in 2005 it developed a new soft drink, Dr. Wham. From the mid-1980s to 2015 Buffalo Rock also distributed Maxwell House coffee. That year it began a partnership with Red Diamond to distribute its coffees and teas in three Southeastern states.
In 2006 Buffalo Rock was named Bottler of the Year by Beverage Industry magazine.
In 2011, Jimmy Lee III named 35-year-old Matthew Dent as the president of the company, and remained the chairman and CEO. In 2019 Buffalo Rock filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo claiming that the beverage maker had infringed on the company's franchise rights by allowing other distributors into its territory.
- Williams, Roy L. (August 4, 2007) "Pepsi CEO gets taste of Birmingham." The Birmingham News
- O'Donnell, Joe (2007) The Forge, Metal to Medicine: Birmingham's Business History. Birmingham: Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce.
- Lewis, Herbert J. (January 30, 2009) "Buffalo Rock Company. Encyclopedia of Alabama - accessed March 3, 2009
- Hubbard, Russell (January 23, 2011) "Buffalo Rock boss names new president." The Birmingham News
- Badham, Tom (October 2012) "Birmingham's Buffalo Rock". Jefferson County Historical Assocation newsletter
- Poe, Kelly (October 18, 2015) "Buffalo Rock to distribute Red Diamond Coffee, ending 30-year partnership with Maxwell House." The Birmingham News
- Thornton, William (January 16, 2019) "Buffalo Rock’s PepsiCo lawsuit shines light on Birmingham soft drink history." The Birmingham News
- Buffalo Rock website