Coffee brands in the 1960s - USA

Seattle City Light employees on coffee break, 1963
Seattle City Light employees on coffee break, 1963
Image by Seattle Municipal Archives licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Coffee was America's favourite hot drink in the mid-century era. Peak consumption was in 1946, when each American consumed, on average, 19.9lb of coffee per year. [1] Coffee consumption dropped to 15.8lb by the 1960s, but that was mainly down to improved processes. In 1962, 75% of adults were coffee drinkers. They drank around three cups of coffee per day.

Manufacturers and retailers spent huge sums advertising coffee. It was the third most-advertised product (by expenditure) in the USA in the 1960s. Only cereal and soft drink manufacturers spent more.

The big change in the coffee market since World War II was the growth of instant coffee. A process for making instant or soluble coffee was invented in the nineteenth century. Soluble coffee was expensive and it did not taste much like regular coffee. Improved processes discovered in the Second World War helped make instant coffee a possibility in the post-war era.[2]

By 1963 instant coffee was 25% of the coffee market. [3]

As well as being easier to make than regular coffee, instant coffee was also cheaper per cup. But instant coffee had an image problem

A study conducted by Professor Mason Haire in 1950 showed that users of instant coffee were thought of as lazy and poor planners. [4]

By 1968 those negative connotations had all but disappeared. This change in perception may have been down to heavy advertising by instant coffee makers in the 1950s and 1960s. [4]

Airway instant coffee jar from the 1960s
Airway instant coffee jar from the 1960s
Image by Mike W. licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

America's top instant coffee brands in 1964 with market share were:

Source: 'Cents-off promotions in the coffee industry' published by The US Bureau of Economics, April 1966, page 12

America's top regular coffee brands in 1964 with market share were:

Source: 'Cents-off promotions in the coffee industry' published by The US Bureau of Economics, April 1966, page 12

Although the amount of coffee consumed by weight had declined since 1946, the number cups people drank went up. In 1951 it was 2.44 cups per day and in 1961 it was 2.97. This was mainly because instant coffee production used less raw coffee bean content.

In the 1960s coffee consumption peaked at three cups per day in 1963, but coffee was losing popularity with the young. The biggest coffee drinkers were people aged between thirty and fifty. Those aged under thirty consumed less. Coffee was being shunned by teenagers who, on average, drank less than one cup per day. [5]

This trend did not bode well for the future. By 1974 only 62% of US adults were coffee drinkers.[5]

References

[1] Foods and Nutrition Encyclopedia: A to H, By Audrey H Ensminger, Marion Eugene Ensminger, James E Konlande, 1994

[2] 'Cents-off promotions in the coffee industry' published by The US Bureau of Economics, April 1966, page 8

[3] 'Cents-off promotions in the coffee industry' published by The US Bureau of Economics, April 1966, page 9

[4] 'A replication of the shopping list study' by Frederick E Webster Jr and Frederick Von Pechmman published in the Journal of Marketing; April 1, 1970, page 34

[5] 'Cents-off promotions in the coffee industry' published by The US Bureau of Economics, April 1966, page 46

[6] Food in the USA - A Reader edited by Carole Counihan published Taylor & Francis 2013

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By Steven Braggs, October 2021

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ 20th Century History ★ Antiques & Collectibles ★