Our History

The Journey Begins

Shipbuilder Austin Hills, Sr., along with his two sons, Austin Herbert and Reuben Wilmarth, sail from New England to California.
1873

Coffee and More – To Market We Go

Once settled, young Austin and R.W. (few called him Reuben) sell coffee, tea, extracts and dairy products in a Bay City Market stall.
1878

A Taste of the Exotic – Coffee and Spice

Their market location blossoms into a full-fledged retail store called Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills on Harrison Street.

Office, factory and selling force, circa 1882.
1882


Factory worker, 1953.
1953

Patriotic Packaging – Coffee During Wartime

During World War II, packaging changes from metal to glass containers. Coffee stockpiling becomes widespread and Americans are limited to one pound every five weeks due to rationing.
1940

On-Site Sales Force

Hills Bros.® provides on-site employees to help grocers in case they have any dissatisfied coffee customers.
1937


R.W. Hills, 1931.

Austin H. Hills, 1931.
1931

From the Windy City to #1

Hills Bros.® expands into Chicago. Within 11 short months, Hills Bros.® becomes the region’s #1 selling coffee.
1930


Hills Bros.® building dedication, 1928.
1928

Sweet Home San Francisco

2 Harrison Street in San Francisco becomes the official home office for Hills Bros.®
1926

Embarcadero Expansion

Roasting operations move into the landmark brick structure along the Embarcadero.
1925


Alaskan explorers take a Hills Bros.® coffee break, 1923.
1923


Hills Bros.® can, circa 1922.
1922

The Red Can Brand

The Red Can Brand of Hills Bros.® Coffee is introduced.
1914

A “Taster” is Born

A young artist named Briggs offers to create a company trademark. His design, the ‘coffee taster’, is inspired by the coffee’s Ethiopian origin, is welcomed by Austin and R.W. A life-size statue is still present at the Hills Bros.® San Francisco building.

Hills Bros.® can, circa 1906.
1906


Workers loading boxes of coffee onto a wagon, circa 1905.
1905

Packaging Pioneers – Vacuum

R.W. Hills, a very passionate tinkerer, stumbles upon a process that removes air from coffee packaging- resulting in fresher beans. Known as ‘vacuum-packing’, R.W.’s discovery is the most widely used packaging method to this day.

Antique Hills Bros.® coffee bin, circa 1900.
1900


Men in front of Hills Bros.® building, circa 1890.
1890


Hills Bros.® Plant – San Francisco, circa 1955.
1955

Eastward Expansion – On To NYC

Hills Bros.® surges eastward into New York. Rapidly, New York state and all of New England are asking for Hills Bros.® coffee.

Hills Bros.® truck with canopy and mechanical coffee taster on top, 1964.
1964

Change in Command, Never in Brand

Nestle purchases Hills Bros.® Coffee.
1985

History Told – Excellence on Exhibit

An interpretive Hills Bros.® history exhibit is put on permanent display at 2 Harrison Street.
1996

Change in Command, Never in Brand

Sara Lee purchases Hills Bros.® Coffee from Nestle.
1999

Expanding Taste Horizons – New Product

Hills Bros.® Cappuccino is launched.

2000


Hills Bros.® races NASCAR 2001-2002. Driven by Hut Stricklin.
2001

Hills Bros.® finds a Home with MZB

Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA purchases Hills Bros.® Coffee from Sara Lee.
2005

Making our Mark

The famous Hills Bros.® Coffee sign, which can be seen over the waterfront along the Embarcadero, remains a National landmark.
2006

Excellence in the Bag

Introduction of Hills Bros.® 100% Arabica Premium Bag Coffees.

2008

Homefront Heros Promotion

Honors men, women and families of service with scholarships in partnership with ThanksUSA.

2010

Introduction of single-serve coffee

Hills Bros.® launches single-serve coffee in the Filter Cup™, which uses less plastic than the leading single-serve format.

2012

Hills Bros.® new packaging is unveiled

The packaging is redesigned to pay homage to the San Francisco heritage.
It features cheerful illustrations of Bay Area icons and landmarks as well as a new tagline – A Taste of San Francisco™.

2015

Introduction of Frappés

Hills Bros.® creates sweet, deliciously chilly treats with the launch of Frappés.

2019