Aug. 19, 2012 at 1:57 PM ET
Consumers, it seems, are always after the shiny new product. For some industries, the latest version is always the most popular -- the newest smartphone, tablet and sneaker are always the products in highest demand. Not surprisingly, some of the most valuable brands are relatively young. Apple, Google and Nike is each worth tens of billions of dollars and has tens of millions of customers.
Nevertheless, many of the most well-known brands with the most valuable brand equity include some of the country’s oldest companies. American Express, founded in 1850, is one of the hundred most valuable brands in the world, according to a list published by Interbrand, a branding consultancy. Coca Cola, Heinz and Jack Daniels are also on the Interbrand list and are all over a hundred years old.
24/7 Wall St. went in search of America’s oldest brands. To be considered, the brand had to have remained the same -- the same name and consistently associated with the same consumer product. While almost all of the brands were not nationally available in the 19th century, the products had to be nationally available today.
Many of the oldest products were not included. Though it has been around for over 200 years, Jim Beam was previously sold as Old Tub and its name did not change to Jim Beam until the 1930s. The company that makes King Arthur flour was founded in 1790, but didn’t adopt the name until the end of the 19th century.
While there are a number of companies that were founded in America over 150 years ago, most remained small regional brands. Yuengling has been brewing since 1829, but continues to be a beer that’s almost exclusively distributed in the Northeast.
Of course, some brands made the cut. Remington does not make the same rifles it did in 1848, but the current models are continuations of the brand’s core product. The New York Times, founded in 1851, has a different typeface and trim size today, but is very similar to the one printed 150 years ago. Even NYT.com has the same front page layout.
What does it take for a brand to survive and thrive for over 150 years, which is as long as Brooks Brothers’ ready-to-wear suit brand has been around? Most brands on our list have done well for many decades because they continue to be well-regarded by consumers. Remington rifles are among the best made in the world. Tiffany silver is still considered the “gold standard” for products in its category. Each of these products may have different competition than a century ago, but continues to be relevant in the current industry.
Will Apple or McDonald’s survive into the next century? There is no assurance of that. They could become unexpectedly overwhelmed by competition, or they could radically change their businesses. There is no way to predict product longevity, as least based on the variety of brands on this list and the competition each has had to survive.
These are America’s Oldest Brands.
1. Baker’s Chocolate
Baker’s Chocolate has, as a brand, been produced consistently since 1780, when Dr. John Baker purchased the outstanding shares in his own company from his partner’s widow. One representative of Kraft Foods, present owners of the brand, told 24/7 Wall St. that “not much has changed, except the packaging.” Yet even the packaging has remained remarkably consistent over time. La Belle Chocolaterie, the female figure seen on packages of Baker’s, has been featured on Baker’s Chocolate packages for over 100 years.
2. Crane & Co.
Crane Paper has been made since 1799, when Zenas Crane began milling cotton paper. Under Zenas, the company began producing stationery paper in 1801. Among those who used stationary crafted from Crane’s paper were Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Queen Mother—who announced the celebration of her 100th birthday using Crane’s paper. Crane & Co. has continued to use cotton paper, even as other companies have moved to tree pulp for making paper, a cheaper alternative. The company’s cotton paper is not just used for stationary, but also for currency. Since 1879, the company has provided the U.S. Treasury with currency paper, a business which accounts for a lion’s share of their revenue.
Remington was founded in Ilion Gulch, New York by Eliphalet Remington II. Though it started by making gun barrels, according to the National Firearms Museum, Remington made its first completed firearm in 1848, when it was contracted by the U.S. Navy to manufacture 1,000 Jenks carbine rifles. The company has evolved somewhat since its founding. It incorporated as a stock company called E. Remington & Sons in 1865. In 1888 it was acquired by Marcellus Hartley and partners and renamed Remington Arms Company. From 1933 to 1993 it was partly, and later wholly owned by E.I du Pont de Nemours & Co. Despite all these changes, Remington rifles have been a constant. Of course, the rifles Remington makes have evolved to the present semi-automatic, autoloading models manufactured and sold today.
4. Schaefer Beer
F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company, which makes Schaefer Beer, was founded by brothers Frederick and Maximilian Schaefer. Frederick had immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1838, and Maximilian followed him in 1839, bringing along a formula for lager. By 1842, the two brothers purchased a small brewery in New York City. Over the 19th and 20th century, the company, and its beers, developed a wider following. An advertising campaign created the famous jingle, Schaefer -- “the one beer to have when you are having more than one.” By 1971, more than 5 million barrels of beer had been brewed. In 1981, the F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company was purchased by the Stroh Brewing Company, which was purchased by the Pabst Brewing Company in 1999. Despite these changes in ownership, Schaefer Beer is still sold today.
5. Poland Spring
Though people tend to think bottled water is a relatively new product, Poland Spring proves them wrong. In 1845, the Ricker family began bottling and selling spring water. By 1860, Poland Spring was being sold all over the country. Driving the brand’s early fame was its affiliation with the Poland Springs Resort and its purported health benefits. The brand remains as popular as ever: Poland Spring was named the strongest bottled water brand in 2012 by the Harris Poll EquiTrend study.