Our story starts with James Folger who, at the age of 14, traveled to San Francisco. He and his two brothers came from Nantucket in search of gold after a major fire destroyed their family's livelihood. While his brothers left for the mines, James stayed behind and got a job with The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills.
James became a full partner of the The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. But, following the Civil War, the economy collapsed—resulting in the business going bankrupt. He convinced his creditors to pay off the company’s debts, and then bought out all the other partners, renaming the company J.A. Folger & Co.
While many coffee importers previously bought and sold beans based on appearance, the idea of “cup-testing” was born in San Francisco. James implemented this technique and began cup-testing shipments of beans himself to develop a taste standard for his coffees. It quickly became apparent that Mountain-Grown® beans had superior qualities when it came to taste and aroma.
James A. Folger passed away at the age of 54, and his son, James A. Folger II, took over the growing coffee business. A year prior, he had written a letter to his son noting there was more to running a successful business than making a profit, and that “money-making was always secondary to a good reputation.”
Our company began to grow due to an energetic salesman named Frank P. Atha, who expanded sales outside of California. He got grocers in eastern states to stock Folgers® Coffee, selling it based on its merit and high quality. Frank often assisted grocers with sales, handing out coffee samples from elaborate in-store displays that he designed himself.
Just one year after our new factory was built, disaster hit. Our building was the only coffee business to survive the Great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. While fire spread throughout the city, the U.S. Marines set up headquarters in the Folgers building and pumped water from the bay. During the city’s rebuilding, citizens were given free coffee.
Coffee demand increased during World War II, but because of severe metal shortages, we had to improvise on packaging. Steel was not available, so Folgers Coffee was packaged in glass jars with waxed cardboard lids. Executives and salesmen were also enlisted to help package coffee, as many workers were enlisted into the war.
With the popularity of instant coffee growing after the war, we decided to release our first instant coffee. Folgers Instant was released in 1953, but then was discontinued, as it was not up to customers' expectations. With time to create one superior to the rest, the new Instant Folgers was released in 1958 and experienced tremendous success.
Wartime changed shipping routes from Central America to New Orleans, making the city one of the largest green-coffee markets in the United States. Around this time, we started planning our largest coffee plant yet. Construction began in 1960 on our New Orleans home, which is still Where We Roast today.
Procter & Gamble acquired our coffee brand and began distributing Folgers nationally. Advertising was pivotal in making us America’s number-one coffee brand, so the character of Mrs. Olson was introduced in TV and print campaigns. Mrs. Olson became the face of the brand for more than 20 years.
Folgers Crystals was introduced in 1975 with the “Tastes As Rich As It Looks” campaign. Then in 1980, we pulled off quite a successful stunt with “The Great Folgers Switch.” For this campaign, unsuspecting coffee drinkers’ regular coffee was secretly switched for Folgers Crystals. The switch was made in several notable upscale restaurants.
The early ‘80s brought on a new advertising campaign. Instead of using a new spokesperson, we created the slogan, “The Best Part of Wakin’ Up Is Folgers in Your Cup®”. The jingle went on to become one of the most recognizable pieces of advertising in American culture.
In honor of our 150th Anniversary, a National Jingle Singin’ Search was held. We also worked in collaboration with VH-1’s Save The Music charitable cause to raise money for underfunded music programs in grade schools.
Our Folgers packaging experienced a major change in 2002. The AromaSeal® canister was introduced to help seal in the aroma and flavor that Folgers drinkers had come to know and love.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, our Folgers plant and many of our employees’ homes were severely damaged. While the city was rebuilding, we set up temporary housing on our grounds for workers who had lost their homes. When our plant reopened, it was the first major industry back in operation in New Orleans after the hurricane.
Folgers Coffee joined The J.M. Smucker Company’s family of brands in 2008, where it has continued to be America’s beloved coffee brand.
You’ve seen our past. Now, discover more about how we roast and our efforts today.