Benjamin Tingley (B.T.) Rogers was born in 1865 in Philadelphia. He followed in his father’s footsteps into the sugar industry, studying sugar chemistry while working in the United States during the early part of his career. In 1889, he heard about Vancouver in its capacity as the terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He immediately identified an opportunity for himself in an untapped market for processed sugar. Recognizing the high cost of transporting refined sugar by rail from Montreal to Vancouver, Mr. Rogers seized the opportunity to refine sugar on the West Coast, taking advantage of Vancouver’s strategic location to raw sugar shipments from the Pacific and shipping the final product to various West Coast centres.
Mr. Rogers worked his way up in the sugar refining business and worked hard to learn the trade. He became very knowledgeable about every aspect of the business. In 1913, the company used a syrupy byproduct of the refinement process to develop Rogers Golden Syrup. By 1916, their corporate assets had increased from the initial investment of $25,000 to $7.5 Million.
Although the technical challenges involved in starting a sugar refinery with completely inexperienced employees proved to be difficult, Mr. Rogers used his leadership to rally his employees. He adopted a paternalistic management style and sponsored the B.C. Sugar Literary and Social Club for employees. Mr. Rogers also helped raise funds for Vancouver General Hospital, serving on its Board and becoming a life governor in 1904.
BC Sugar Refinery was Vancouver’s first major industry not based on logging or fishing and is still here after more than 100 years. B.T. Rogers’ legacy lives on through Rogers Sugar, which remains the leading refiner, processor, distributor and marketer of sugar products in Western Canada. As the sole sugar processor in Western Canada, Rogers Sugar supplies over 90% of the demand for refined sugar.