America’s 10 Oldest Food and Drink Companies

These companies have been around for a lot longer than you think

Photo Modified: Flickr / TravelingOtter / CC BY-SA 4.0

Jim Beam has been selling bourbon since 1795.

Companies come and go, but there are some out there that have truly stood the test of time. In fact, some food and drink brands in your supermarket have been around since Colonial times! Read on to learn which 10 American food and drink companies have stuck around the longest.

America’s 10 Oldest Food and Drink Companies (Slideshow)

The oldest extant companies in the food and drink world date back more than 1,000 years, and as you might imagine, they tend to be pubs, vineyards, and breweries. Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland opened in 900 A.D. and is recognized as the oldest pub in Europe; Chateau de Goulaine in France’s Loire Valley has been producing wine since 1000 A.D., and Weihenstephan Brewery in Germany has been producing beer since 1040 A.D. If you’re curious, the world’s oldest continuously operating independent company is a Japanese construction firm called Kongō Gumi, which has been in business since way back in 578 A.D.

Alas, America is a far younger country, so its oldest companies are much younger. As far as we can tell, the oldest active business in North America is Virginia’s Shirley Plantation, which has been in business since 1613, and the nation’s oldest food company, which we’ll get to shortly, has been around since 1765. Through the early 1800s, there’s only a handful of food and drink companies that are still around that existed during that time, but once we get to the industrial boom of the late 1800s, many smaller food and drink companies started then, that are still in business. So for today’s purposes (past 1850) we’re focusing on only the biggest companies that were founded prior to 1900 that are still with us, the ones with products in every supermarket or liquor store.

So from “the best part of waking up” to a popular hot sauce, read on to learn which food and drink companies are America’s oldest, some dating back even to the 1700s. In this era where everything seems like a flash in the pan, some companies have truly stood the test of time.

#10 Pepsi-Cola: 1898

Photo Modified: Flickr / Guian Bolisay / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Coke-Pepsi rivalry still rages on.

The drink that came to be known as Pepsi was invented by a pharmacist named Caleb Bradham in 1893 at his New Bern, North Carolina pharmacy. Originally called Brad’s Drink, the name was changed in 1898 to Pepsi-Cola, after two ingredients, the digestive enzyme pepsin and kola nuts.

#9 Jell-O: 1897

JELL-O / Facebook

Jell-O is a classic dessert.

Gelatin, made from collagen extracted from boiled bones and other animal products, has been used in food preparation since the 1400s, and purified, powdered gelatin was invented in 1845 by industrialist Peter Cooper (prior to that it was only available in sheets, which were much more expensive). In 1898, a LeRoy, New York-based carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer named Pearly Bixby Wait trademarked a combination of granulated gelatin, sugar, and flavoring called Jell-O. The first flavors were strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon. No word on when the first Jell-O shot was taken. 

Click here for more very old food companies.

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