Our History

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The Journey Begins

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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The Red Can Brand

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

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Hills Bros.® can, circa 1922.
1922

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

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Embarcadero Expansion

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

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Sweet Home San Francisco

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

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Hills Bros.® building dedication, 1928.
1928

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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

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R.W. Hills, 1931.

Austin H. Hills, 1931.
1931

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On-Site Sales Force

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

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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

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Factory worker, 1953.
1953

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

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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

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Change in Command, Never in Brand

Nestle purchases Hills Bros.® Coffee.
1985

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History Told – Excellence on Exhibit

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

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Change in Command, Never in Brand

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

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Expanding Taste Horizons – New Product

Hills Bros.® Cappuccino is launched.

2000

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

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Hills Bros.® finds a Home with MZB

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

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Making our Mark

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

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Excellence in the Bag

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

2008

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Homefront Heros Promotion

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

2010

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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

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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

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Introduction of Frappés

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

2019

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