Hills Bros. Coffee

History

1873
Shipbuilder Austin Hills, Sr., along with his two sons, Austin Herbert and Reuben Wilmarth, sail from New England to California.
1878
Once settled, young Austin and R.W. (few called him Reuben) sell coffee, tea, extracts and dairy products in a Bay City Market stall.

Office, factory and selling force, circa 1882.
1882
Their market location blossoms into a full-fledged retail store called Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills on Harrison Street.

Men in front of Hills Bros. building, circa 1890.
 
1900
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.

Workers loading boxes of coffee onto a wagon, circa 1905.
1906
A young artist named Briggs offers to create a company trademark. His design, the 'taster', 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.
1914
The Red Can Brand of Hills Bros. Coffee is introduced.
 

Hills Bros. can, circa 1922.

Alaskan explorers take a Hills Bros. coffee break, 1923.
1925
Roasting operations move into the landmark brick structure along the Embarcadero.
1926
2 Harrison Street in San Francisco becomes the official home office for Hills Bros.
 

Hills Bros. building dedication, 1928.
1930
Hills Bros. expands into Chicago. Within 11 short months, Hills Bros. becomes the region's #1 selling coffee.

Austin H. Hills, 1931.

R.W. Hills, 1931.
1937
Hills Bros. provides on-site employees to help grocers in case they have any dissatisfied coffee customers.
 
1940
During World War II, packaging changes from metal to glass containers. Coffee hoarding becomes widespread and Americans are limited to one pound every five weeks due to rationing.

Factory worker, 1953.

Hills Bros. Plant- San Francisco, circa 1955.
1964
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.
 
1985
Nestle purchases Hills Bros. Coffee.

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


1999
Sara Lee purchases Hills Bros. Coffee from Nestle.

2000
Hills Bros. Cappuccino is launched.

Hills Bros. races NASCAR 2001-2001. Driven by Hut Stricklin.
2005
Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA purchases
Hills Bros. Coffee from Sara Lee.
2006
The famous Hills Bros. Coffee sign, which can be seen over the
waterfront along the Embarcadero, remains a National landmark.

2008
Introduction of Hills Bros. 100% Arabica Premium Bag Coffees.