Friday, August 04, 2017

...They Just Evaporate Away

Yesterday we noted that an iconic San Francisco beverage company will be bought by a large foreign rival.

A similar event occurred 32 years ago. Headline: Nestle Acquires Hills Brothers Coffee.

Back in the 1970's, before there was a Starbucks on every corner, specialized "coffee shops" didn't exist. Coffee was served as an accompaniment to breakfast at Howard Johnson's and Denny's (there was also a pretty good pancake chain called Sambo's that went out of business for reasons having nothing to do with its food).

Most Americans bought cans of ground coffee and made the brew at home in a percolator. General Foods' Maxwell House ("good to the last drop") was the largest seller, and Hills Brothers was a strong regional brand. As late as the 1980's the smell of roasting coffee filled the air along the Embarcadero.

Its claims to fame are two-fold: in 1900 the company reportedly invented vacuum-packaging, which enabled coffee suppliers to maintain freshness when shipping product long distances; the "taster"--an Arab (some believe he's a Turk) drinking coffee--is one of the most distinctive logos in the food and beverage industry.

32 years later one has to look hard to find any Hills Brothers products. Let's hope that a similar fate does not befall Anchor Steam.

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