Partner Spotlight: Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages

Mark and Matthew Seiler first experimented with the art of brewing beverages back in their high school days growing up in New Hampshire. Since they were far too young to buy beer, they got creative and decided to brew up their own using old lobster pots and discarded bottles. “We learned a lot by doing it ourselves,” says Mark Seiler, who is three years older than Matthew.

But after high school, Mark left for college and eventually landed a job in the software industry in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Matthew stayed closer to home when he took a job working at the Flatbread Pizza Co., in Portland, Maine. The restaurant was renowned for using natural and organic ingredients in its food, including the beverages it served. It sold root beer, for example, that was made by a craft producer in Vermont. But when one of the big beverage companies bought the root beer company, it changed the recipe and swapped in high fructose corn syrup for the conventionally-grown cane sugar it has used in the past.


Folks at the restaurant could immediately taste the difference; it just wasn’t the same. But at the time, there were no alternative products available that didn’t use corn syrup. That’s when Matthew Seiler decided to dig out his old brewing equipment and see if he could mix up a batch of root beer using organic cane sugar. After brewing up a couple of batches, he landed on a recipe that everyone at the restaurant thought was delicious. Thus, Maine Root Handcrafted Beverages was born.

At that same time, in 2003, Mark Seiler was looking to make a change. Coincidentally, the death of a friend led him back to the northeast, where he got to reconnect with this brother, who he hadn’t seen in some time. That’s when he learned about the root beer business Matt had started. Mark was intrigued and decided to quit his job and come on board as Maine Root’s salesperson. Their first year goal was $100k in sales. By the end of the year, when they tallied up the figures, the company had sold three-times that amount – or some 12 truck loads of root beer.


Things have only grown from there, helped by regular customers like Kerbey Lane Cafe. “It’s unbelievable to see how far we have come,” says Mark, who is now president and CEO of the company. “We have the wind at our backs.”

Today, Maine Root, which has operations in both Maine and Austin, sells its beverages, which includes 18 flavors of soft drinks and lemonade, all over the world, including in Dubai, Hong Kong, and Scandinavia. Part of the appeal of their beverages goes beyond their delicious flavors: Maine Root uses Fair-Trade certified organic cane juice as the sweetener. The certification means that farmers are paid a premium for their products because they employ ethical and environmentally-friendly practices. All of the fair-trade certified organic sugar used in Maine Root beverages, for instance, comes from farmers in Paraguay. The premium the company pays to those farmers is then distributed by an organization called Fair Trade USA, which helps invest in hospitals and schools in the communities where the farmers live and work. Farmers in the community were even able to buy a truck to replace the old tractor that pulled the wagons they had been using to bring the cane in from the fields to their mill.

“We’re excited to see companies talk about supporting Fair Trade and how it helps farmers and their communities,” says Mark. “There is a lot of interest in moving away from the conventional world of high fructose corn syrup. A lot of other companies want to learn how we are doing things like this because restaurants and consumers are demanding it.”

Mark acknowledges that the soda industry has come under fire in recent years, especially in the wake of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. But at Maine Root, they encourage their customers to consider one of their beverages as a special treat – not as a complement to every meal. “If you do too much of anything, even drinking water, it can be detrimental to you,” says Mark. “We didn’t set out to make anything unhealthy. We just wanted to make a better root beer using the best ingredients we could find. We want to give people the opportunity to have fun by drinking a celebratory beverage.”