house brand

Maxwell House

Maxwell House is a brand of coffee manufactured by a like-named division of Kraft Foods. It is named in honor of the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. For many years until the late 1980s it was the largest-selling coffee in the U.S. and is currently (ca. 2007) second behind Folgers, which is manufactured by The J.M. Smucker Co.. The company recently unveiled its new slogan, "It's A New Morning. Brew Some Good." Part of the new slogan is also the URL of their new website,

Early history

The coffee was provided to the hotel beginning in 1892 by local manufacturers, Leon T. Cheek and Joel Owsley Cheek, who developed the blend. In 1901 Cheek and a partner, John Neal, established the Nashville Coffee and Manufacturing Company. The name was changed to Cheek & Neal (later Cheek-Neal) Coffee Company in 1903. In 1928 the assets of Cheek-Neal were purchased by the Postum Company.(fart)

"Good to the last drop"

In 1917, Cheek-Neal began using a "Good to the Last Drop" slogan to advertise their Maxwell House Coffee. For several years, the ads made no mention of Theodore Roosevelt as the phrase's originator. By the 1930s, however, the company was running advertisements that claimed that the former President had taken a sip of Maxwell House Coffee on a visit to Andrew Jackson's estate, The Hermitage, near Nashville on October 21, 1907 and that when served coffee he had proclaimed it to be "Good to the Last Drop." In modern times, Maxwell House has distanced itself from its own original claim stating that the slogan was actually written by Clifford Spiller, former president of General Foods Corporation and did not come from a Roosevelt remark overheard by Cheek-Neal. The phrase remains a registered trademark for the product and appears on its logo. While the veracity of the Roosevelt relation to the phrase has never been historically established in the press of local papers that covered Roosevelt's October 21st visit and one of his coffee drinking episodes, without doubt, the Maxwell House Company, itself, for many years, claimed in its own advertising that the Roosevelt story was true.

Expansion of the product line

In 1942 General Foods Corporation, the successor to the Postum Company, began supplying instant coffee to the U.S. armed forces. Beginning in the fall of 1945 this product, now branded as Maxwell House Instant Coffee, entered test markets in the eastern U.S. and began national distribution the following year.

In 1966 the company introduced "Maxwell House ElectraPerk", developed specifically for electric percolators. In 1976 the product was joined by "Maxwell House A.D.C." coffee, the name reflecting its intended use in automatic drip coffee makers such as Mr. Coffee, which were in the process of pushing aside traditional coffee-preparation methods. In 1972 the company had introduced "Max-Pax" ground coffee filter rings, aimed at the then still-strong market for drip coffee preparation. Although this method, too, has been eclipsed, the Max-Pax concept was subsequently adapted as Maxwell House Filter Packs (1989) for use in automatic coffee makers. By the 1990s formulations for specific preparation methods had been quietly discontinued. The brand is now marketed in ground and pre-measured forms, as well as in whole-bean, flavored and varietal blends. A higher-yield ground coffee, "Maxwell House Master Blend", was introduced in 1981 and "Rich French Roast", "Colombian Supreme", and "1892" (a "slow-roasted" formulation) in 1989. In recent years the names of these products have been modified by the company to present a more "uniform" Maxwell House brand image.

Decaffeinated coffee

Although General Foods had been marketing decaffeinated coffee under various brand names (Sanka since 1927 and Brim and Maxim since the 1950s), it had refrained from selling Maxwell-House-labeled decaf products until 1983, when it introduced ground Maxwell House decaf into east-coast markets. (At the same time, a decaf version of its long-established, lighter-tasting Yuban brand was introduced on the west coast.) Maxwell House decaffeinated instant coffee finally hit the shelves in 1985. A further modification of the decaf theme, "Maxwell House Lite", a "reduced-caffeine" blend, was introduced nationally in 1992 and its instant form the following year.


Maxwell House was the long-time sponsor of the early television series, Mama (TV series), based on the play and film I Remember Mama. It starred Peggy Wood as the matriarch of a Norwegian-American family. It ran on the CBS network from 1949 to 1957 and was perhaps the first example of product placement on a TV show, as the family frequently gathered around the kitchen table for a cup of Maxwell House coffee. Early television programs were frequently packaged by the advertising agencies of individual sponsors. As this practice became less common in the late 1950s, Maxwell House, like most national brands, turned to "spot" advertising, with the agencies creating sometimes long-running campaigns in support of their products. One such 1970s campaign for Maxwell House featured the actress Margaret Hamilton, the former wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz, as Cora, the general store owner who proudly announced that Maxwell House was the only brand she sold.

Along with television advertising, Maxwell House used various print campaigns, always featuring the tagline "good to the last drop." The publication of its Passover haggadah by the Joseph Jacobs Advertising Agency beginning in 1934 made Maxwell House a household name with many American Jewish families. This was a clever marketing strategy by owner Joseph Jacobs, who hired an Orthodox rabbi to certify that the coffee bean was technically more like a berry than a bean and, consequently, kosher for Passover. Maxwell House coffee was the first to target a Jewish demographic, and the haggadah continues to represent a synthesis of American and Jewish interests.

Manufacturing facilities

Maxwell House coffee is produced at three U.S. locations: Houston, Texas, Jacksonville, Florida, and San Leandro, California. A fourth plant (the oldest of the group), located in Hoboken, New Jersey, was closed in the early 1990s. Its enormous rooftop sign, proclaiming the brand name and a dripping coffee cup, was a landmark visible in New York City across the Hudson River from Manhattan. The plant was later sold and demolished. The site, like most New Jersey riverfront property opposite Manhattan, is now occupied by a condominium. The Houston plant was divested by Kraft Foods to Maximus Coffee Group LP in late 2006. In March 2007, the neon coffee cup sign which glowed like a beacon over the city's East End was removed from atop the side of the sixteen-story coffee roaster building.

Maxwell House in popular culture

Blues musician Mississippi John Hurt mentions Maxwell's House in his song "Coffee Blues". In the song, he proclaims that all he "really wants, is a spoonful of maxwell's house". He even states that he "heard that just a spoonful of Maxwell's House, is about as good or better than 3 or 4 cups of any OTHER coffee" and that it is "Good till the last drop, just like it says on the can."

Tom Waits sings of a sailor who "dreams of a waitress with Maxwell House eyes/And marmalade thighs with scrambled yellow hair" in the song 'The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours At Napoleone's Pizza House' from the album The Heart of Saturday Night (Asylum, 1974).


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