This week, we search for some of the world's oldest brands. 80% of companies fold after 18 months, the ones that survive average a 50 year life span - then there are the ones that manage to last 100, 300 or sometimes even 600 years. We'll look at a retail store that began in 1670, a brewery that poured its first beer in 1366, and the oldest fast food joint that used root beer to attract drinkers during Prohibition. Join us as we look for the magical ingredient in companies that last centuries.
One day in 1858, a man by the name of Hymen Lipman had an idea.
He was in the stationery business, and something had always bothered him.
When he wrote with a pencil, he was always searching for misplaced erasers. So he thought, why not put an eraser on the top of the pencil?
So he did.
As a matter of fact, he embedded the India rubber inside the pencil, taking up 25% of the pencil's length. So in order to use the pencil and eraser, you had to sharpen both ends.
An entrepreneur named Joseph Reckendorfer saw the pencil, and immediately offered Lipman $100,000 for the rights to the invention.
Reckendorfer must have had visions of untold riches dancing in his head, because $100,000 in 1858 is the equivalent of $2 million today.
But Reckendorfer was convinced he was holding a revolutionary invention in his hand. He actually improved the pencil by creating a receptacle at the top to hold the eraser, so writers no longer had to sharpen the pencil to expose the pink rubber.
In 1875, pencil maker Eberhard Faber started manufacturing built-in erasers, so Reckendorfer sued the company to protect his patent.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Reckendorfer, stating that all Lipman had done originally was combine an eraser, which was a known commodity, with a pencil, which was a known commodity – and the combination didn't result in a patentable invention.
That meant any company could now manufacture pencils with built-in erasers without paying any royalties.
While Reckendorfer lost a considerable fortune, the world gained an invaluable writing instrument.
The typical lead pencil looks so simple, yet it is capable of drawing a line 35 miles long, the equivalent of 45,000 words.
So many of the world's great companies were hatched as a pencil doodle on the back of an envelope or napkin.
And you can't overstate the importance of the eraser in those doodles, allowing ideas to be polished, reworked and refined.
The humble pencil with eraser… an indispensable product born over 158 years ago.
In the world of marketing, there are a surprising number of companies that were also nearly 100 years old.
There are some companies still in business today that are over 300 years old. And - there are even a few that have been marketing their products for over 600 years.
It takes a special company to survive a century, to weather economic ups and downs and to outlast bitter rivals.
What is the magic that makes them the world's oldest brands…
According to Forbes Magazine, 8 out 10 new businesses fold in the first 18 months.
That's an 80% crash and burn rate.
Most companies have a life span of 50-60 years.
You need a great product, visionary leadership, and maybe most difficult – you need a succession of good leaders over the years.
That's why you have to raise a beer to the companies that not only survive, but thrive.
The beer category boasts some of the longest-lasting companies in the world.
For example, the Stiegl Brewery was founded in 1492. Grolsch was started in 1615. And Smithwick's poured its first Irish ale in 1710.
But one of the oldest is Stella Artois, which goes all the way back to the year 1366.
The company was originally called the Den Hoorn Brewery, and was known for quality taste and high brewing standards.
In 1717, a man named Sebastian Artois bought the brewery, and renamed it Stella Artois. "Stella" was the Latin word for "star" – implying quality.
And that was the Stella Artois story, and it enjoyed a prosperous and fruitful existence for the next 285 years.
One day in the early 2000s, Stella Artois made a fateful decision that would have a serious impact on its reputation.
It decided to begin selling its beer in supermarkets.
It made sense on paper – supermarkets gave the brand thousands of new selling locations, and the weekly trips to grocery stores might turn into weekly purchases of Stella.
But then an unexpected thing happened.
Supermarkets began heavily discounting Stella Artois. They treated it as a loss leader, using it as a way to attract people into the grocery stores, hoping they would spend their money on other more profitable items.
With that steep discount, Stella's typical buyers changed almost overnight. Suddenly, heavy drinking young men began buying Stella.
The price was now cheap – and more importantly – the alcohol content was high. Stella had 5.2% alcohol, versus the usual 4.7%.
A high number of these young men were binge drinkers, or soccer hooligans, as the press called them. They were prone to anti-social behaviour, and many photographs of vandalism showed the men brandishing cans of Stella Artois.
When that image spread, three things happened:
First, the upper scale market quit buying Stella.
Second, respectable pubs stopped carrying the brand, because it attracted an undesirable crowd.
And third, the long-time slogan of "Reassuringly Expensive" didn't make any sense anymore.
Stella Artois found itself at odds with its own image – after 630 years of success.
Stella Artois was now one of the oldest brands in the world, and one of the most stigmatized.
The solution was to reclaim its heritage.
So a new advertising agency was hired to rebrand Stella Artois. First, the brewery pulled its brand out of certain supermarkets and low-end pubs. Then it created powerful marketing that highlighted its quality ingredients and high brewing standards - and told that story consistently in a series of beautifully-filmed television commercials with the new theme line:
Stella then launched a lower-alcohol content lager, to battle the binge drinker.
It also printed a widely distributed "9-step pouring ritual" poster:
Then the brewery had a special glass designed to pour its lager into – and called it the Stella Artois chalice.
From the new theme line to the new advertising, to the 9-step pouring instructions to the chalice, to the lower-alcohol lager to the rethink of its distribution, Stella Artois convinced the public to look at the beer in a brand new way.
In other words, it changed the conversation.
With that, Stella reclaimed its premium status, the upper scale market came back, the vandals went away, and a now 650-year old brewery – that had survived centuries, and wars and feast and famine – had survived its greatest test yet:
In Canada, the oldest major brewery was started by a young man from England.
His name was John Molson.
Remarkably, he was just 22 when he started his brewery on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. And he did it 80 years before Canada became a country.
Molson was a man of vision, and built his brewery into a major corporation. He also built a hotel, Montreal's first theatre, the first Canadian-made steamboat and helped build Montreal's first public hospital.
When John Molson died at the age of 72, he had just begun construction on his biggest project yet – Canada's first railroad.
The Molson family continued his legacy, and even opened the Molson Bank in 1855, which operated until 1925 when it merged with the oldest bank in Canada – the Bank Of Montreal.
Molson has been closely associated with hockey in this country since 1957, when Senator Hartland Molson bought the Montreal Canadiens, which led to Molson becoming a big sponsor of Hockey Night In Canada.
As a marketer, Molson has created some well-known commercials over the years. In the '60s, a famous Molson Canadian song was created, and was sung by a bevy of stars, including Paul Anka:
And of course, Maybe the most famous Molson Canadian commercial of all time is titled "The Rant" performed by none other than Jeff Douglas, co-host of CBC's As It Happens:
It was a commercial that probably made Labatt swallow a little hard back then.
Today, Molson has merged with Coors to become the fifth largest brewery in the world.
And it all started when a 22-year old had an idea 230 years ago.
When it comes to retailers, Canada boasts the oldest store in North America.
The Hudson's Bay Company - established in 1670.
It all began when two French fur traders recognized there were riches to be had in the Hudson's Bay area, but they couldn't get any backing from French or American interests.
So they asked King Charles II of England to fund a trading company. The King then granted a charter to his cousin and a group of associates, establishing the Hudson's Bay Company, then called, "The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson's Bay."
The charter also granted a million and a half square miles of western and northern Canada to the company. It was more than 40% of the modern nation, and a sixth of North America.
What's interesting about that enormous land grant was that Charles believed it was his to give – simply because no other Christian monarch had claimed it.
So, for all intents and purposes, the Hudson's Bay Company owned Canada for the next 200 years. For much of that time, it issued its own money. It built and maintained forts across the country.
Then, in 1870, three years after Confederation, the Hudson's Bay Company signed a Deed of Surrender, giving up its governmental powers and most of its vast land holdings to the now self-governed Dominion of Canada.
In terms of land area, it was one of the largest real estate transactions in history.
Historically speaking, the Hudson's Bay Company should have been lost to the sands of time, like most other companies from that era.
Yet it had a stubborn adaptability. It survived brutal weather, wars between the English and French, and bloody clashes with rival traders. But the Hudson's Bay Company was still run by a group of tough adventurers, and it provided necessary outposts in the early days of the country.
As the population grew and gold prospectors rushed to the Klondike, the trading posts turned into stores. Over the ensuing years, you could buy apparel at HBC stores, as well as house furnishings, floor coverings, appliances, sporting goods, jewellery, china and whiskey. It was once the largest distributor of tobacco in Canada. You could rent a canoe from one store and return it to another. You could even get a marriage licence from the Winnipeg location.
At one point, HBC owned the Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas Company.
Today, there are 90 Hudson's Bay locations across Canada. From its establishment back in 1670, the company has sold its goods continuously for nearly 350 years.
Making it – by far - the oldest retailer in North America.
When it comes to fast food, what do you think is the oldest company?
Originally, Roy Allen was in the business of buying and renovating hotels.
One day while arranging a deal in Tucson, Arizona, a pharmacist gave Allen a taste of a new drink called Root Beer, and he was so enamoured with it, he bought the rights to the recipe in 1919.
With that, he opened a root beer stand in Lodi, California.
The stand turned into a success – but the reason why is most interesting.
That very year, 1919, the Volstead Act was passed.
If you don't recognize that law, you may know it by its other name: Prohibition.
That's when Roy Allen saw an opportunity. Because the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages was outlawed, Allen capitalized on the name Root BEER. He knew the word beer would attract customers, and soldiers returning from World War I flocked to his establishment to swig a Root Beer.
Allen even went as far as decorating his stand like a tavern, with bar and stools.
With business booming, he opened a second location in Stockton, California. In 1920, Allen formed a partnership with an employee named Frank Wright, and together they open five more outlets.
Using their initials, Allen and Wright branded their product "A&W ROOT BEER."
America was now on the move with the emergence of the automobile, so the partners come up with the idea of transforming A&W Root Beer stands into A&W drive-in restaurants.
They borrowed the idea of bellhops from hotels and created carhops to bring the food out to customers, who ate in the comfort of their cars.
Allen eventually bought Wright out in 1924, he registered the A&W logo, and established a franchise chain. While growth slowed during the Depression years, the company continued to expand, and by the end of the '30s, there were 170 A&W franchises.
By the late 50s, there were over 1,900 A&W restaurants in the U.S., and the first Canadian restaurant opened in Winnipeg in 1956.
With their famous frosted mugs, the Burger Family, and the Root Bear, A&W today has 800 locations in Canada, and 1,200 in the USA.
And it all started with a root beer recipe – during the heart of prohibition - nearly 100 years ago.
Speaking of drive-in restaurants and automobiles, what do you think is the oldest vehicle still being produced in North America?
The answer… is the Chevrolet Suburban.
During the Depression, the prevailing vehicles for moving people and goods around were car-based wagons.
Most of those wagons had wooden siding and canvas roofs, and were easily damaged, so Chevrolet decided to build a steel wagon body mounted on a truck frame.
They called it the "CarryAll Suburban" and launched the truck in 1935. It was an instant hit with commercial buyers. During the Second World War, Chevy and GMC continued to build Suburbans for military use.
But what really fuelled Suburban sales after the war, was – fittingly - the birth of suburbs. Growing families were leaving city centres for more affordable housing in outlying areas, and they needed spacious vehicles to navigate those sprawling new neighbourhoods.
Plus, as the highway construction increased, people could move across the country like never before. Even though the term SUV was quite a few decades away, the Suburban became the utility vehicle of choice for families.
Like the Hudson's Bay Company, the Suburban had a stubborn adaptability. Its design moved with the times, and it also appealed to police fleets, emergency response units, school bus companies, commercial businesses and more.
Even today, rather than slowing down in its old age, the 81-year old Chevrolet Suburban is still a big seller despite a lot of competition.
It's the oldest automotive nameplate still in production, and it carries the distinction as the only vehicle sold today that was actually tested by founder Louis Chevrolet himself.
When it comes to companies that have survived for hundreds of years, it's always interesting to discover the reason for their existence.
For example, the London Gazette newspaper has been published since 1665.
It was born because of the great plague in Britain.
When the disease was ravaging London, King Charles II - the same King Charles who would charter the Hudson's Bay Company five years later – removed his court from London and relocated to the relative safety of Oxford.
Because he was out of the country's capital, he ordered the publication of a paper in order to communicate with his subjects.
Hence, the birth of the London Gazette – 350 years ago.
A lot of the products we take for granted every day have managed to survive for over 100 years.
And when you think of that achievement, you have to take into account all the competitors these products have had to fight off to survive
Take Tabasco Sauce, for example.
Tabasco is actually a brand name.
It was developed by a banker named Edmund McIlhenny in 1865, after the Civil War destroyed his financial business.
So he began growing peppers on Avery Island, near the eastern salt marshes of Louisiana.
He crushed the peppers, mixed in island salt, added French white vinegar and let the mixture age for 60 days.
He then sold his creation in small perfume bottles.
McIlhenny chose the name "Tabasco" – which was a Mexican word for "a place where the soil is humid."
It was a humble start – but now people go through 450,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce every day – totalling over 160 million bottles annually.
Every bottle is fitted with a top that only allows one drop at a time – after all, it is hot sauce.
And just so you know, each bottle of Tabasco contains 720 drops.
The brand has survived for over 147 years in the ultra competitive condiment category.
But Tabasco – along with all the other remarkable companies we've talked about today - understands the secret to longevity.
You just have to make the competition sweat…
As an entrepreneur myself, I know – firsthand – how difficult it is to get a company off the ground, and keep it off the ground.
When you realize that 80% of new companies fail in the first 18 months, and the ones that do make it usually last for about 50 years – the fact some companies survive for over 100 is remarkable.
Let alone the ones that have lasted over 300 years.
No company sails effortlessly through time. There are financial headwinds, economic shoals, leadership storms, and a never-ending convoy of hungry competitors eager to torpedo you and take your lunch money.
But in each of the stories today, the companies shared a unique ability to seize surprising opportunities and overcome adversity.
A&W saw an opportunity when Prohibition was announced. King Charles II created the London Gazette when the plague forced him out of the city.
Then there's that stubborn adaptability. The Hudson's Bay Company survived against all odds to celebrate 346 years. The inventor of Tabasco sauce decided to grow peppers when his banking business failed.
And Stella Artois had to solve a serious setback in its 636th year of existence, proving no matter how experienced a company is, it is never immune from pitfalls.
Maybe stubborn adaptability really is the key to all business success.
It's the ability to sharpen that pencil every morning, erase the failures, and never give up…
…when you're under the influence.
Which brand is the oldest brand in the world? ›
The oldest business in the world is a company in Japan called Kongō Gumi, which has been in operation since 578. It is the oldest company on the list by far, predating the second-oldest by more than 200 years.What is the oldest branded product? ›
But the oldest commercial logo in continuous use is British tea maker Twinings. The company dates back to 1706 and its logo has been in use since 1787. Shell Oil first started bringing kerosene to India from London in 1891, and the ships that brought the kerosene would bring back seashells to sell in Europe.What is the name of Canada oldest business? ›
The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC; French: Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson) is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trading business for much of its existence, it became the oldest corporation in Canada, and now owns and operates retail stores across the country.What is the oldest logo still used? ›
British tea company Twinings has the oldest logo that has been in continuous use with no alterations made to the logo's design. It was created for the tea company more than two centuries ago, in 1787.What are the 5 oldest companies in the world? ›
- Consolidated Edison.
- Tuttle Farm.
- Kongo Gumi.
Ancient grains discovered in Australian meteorite reveal 'baby boom' in star formation. Scientists with the University of Chicago and Field Museum have discovered stardust that formed 5 to 7 billion years ago—the oldest solid material ever found on Earth.What is the oldest beer logo? ›
The earliest known trademark is said to be the Bass Ale triangle, depicted on beer bottles in the 1882 painting by French artist Édouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Édouard Manet, 1882.What is the oldest brand in America? ›
Shirley Plantation is the oldest company in the US, founded in Virginia in 1613, 163 years before the United States was a country.Who owned Canada before us? ›
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By 1759, the British had roundly defeated the French and the French and Indian War (part of the broader conflict called the Seven Years War) ended soon after. In 1763, France ceded Canada to England through the Treaty of Paris.
Mexico's La Casa de Moneda de México (founded 1534) is the oldest company across North America, and the first mint of America.
What is the oldest family owned business? ›
According to the survey, the simple 'apple' icon is the most recognizable logo in the US, followed by the golden arches of McDonald's and the familiar typography of Coca Cola.What was the first logo in history? ›
The first logo ever trademarked was in 1876 for Bass Brewery. It was a red triangle with the “Bass” text beneath, in a sweeping cursive text not dissimilar to Coca Cola's instantly recognizable scrawl.What is the biggest company in the world ever? ›
- #1 Walmart Inc. (WMT)
- #2 China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (SNP)
- #3 Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)
- #4 PetroChina Co. Ltd. (PTR)
- #5 Apple Inc. (AAPL)
- #6 CVS Health Corp. (CVS)
- #7 Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDS.A)
- #8 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A)
Mining and quarrying have been a major social and economic force throughout history. The use of stone tools is as old as humanity, if not older.What are the oldest items? ›
The zircon crystals from Australia's Jack Hills are believed to be the oldest thing ever discovered on Earth. Researchers have dated the crystals to about 4.375 billion years ago, just 165 million years after the Earth formed. The zircons provide insight into what the early conditions on Earth were like.What is the oldest toy ever? ›
What would you say if I asked you what you think the world's oldest toy is? You're right, it's the spinning top! Believe it or not, the oldest top ever found was dated to be about six thousand years old and there was a wooden top found in King Tut's tomb! The beauty of these toys is in their simplicity.What is the oldest object in America? ›
Stone tools in the Americas: 15,500 years old
“This is the oldest credible archaeological site in North America,” Dr. Waters told the New York Times in 2011.
Therefore, beer was considered a barbaric drink and only fit for lower classes to imbibe. Even so, the Romans were brewing beer (called cerevisia) quite early, as evidenced by discoveries in the tomb of a beer brewer and merchant (a Cerveserius) in ancient Treveris (modern-day Trier).What was the 1st beer? ›
The earliest known alcoholic beverage may have been brewed around 7000 BCE in China in the village of Jiahu, where neolithic pottery shows evidence of a mead-type concoction made from rice, honey and fruit.
What is the oldest piece of clothing in the world? ›
The oldest clothing item recorded is the linen Tarkhan dress from Egypt's first Dynasty approximately 5,000 years ago. Pants found in a Chinese tomb were made 3,000 years ago, while a 1,700-year-old sock was fished out of a landfill during an archeological expedition in the Egyptian city of Antinoopolis.What brands are 100 years? ›
100-Year-Old Companies Still in Business Today
- Coca-Cola. The Coca-Cola Company was founded back in 1892, several years after the beverage was invented by the pharmacist John S. ...
- J.C. Penney. ...
- UPS. ...
- Boeing. ...
- L.L. Bean. ...
- Harley-Davidson. ...
- Kraft Foods. ...
Brooks Brothers, founded in Manhattan, New York, in 1818, is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in America. Originally a family business, Brooks Brothers produces clothing for men, women and children, as well as home furnishings.Why do Canadians speak French? ›
In 1867, Canada became a federal state and was divided into four provinces: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. French became the official language of Quebec, and through the 1969 Official Languages Act, both English and French are recognized as official languages of Canada.Who lived in Canada before the Vikings? ›
Farther afield, on their explorations into other areas of Vinland, the Norse did encounter Indigenous peoples, whom they referred to as skraelings (a term they also used when referring to the Indigenous peoples of Greenland).What was Canada called before it was called Canada? ›
Leading up to the proposed confederation, a number of names were suggested for the northern half of the continent of North America, including: Albertsland, Albionora, Borealia, Britannia, Cabotia, Colonia, Efisga 1, Hochelaga, Norland, Superior, Transatlantia, Tuponia 2, and Victorialand.What is the oldest black-owned company? ›
More Videos. But over the decades, E.E. Ward came to earn an even greater distinction: the oldest Black-owned business in the United States.What was the first big business in America? ›
Railroads were the first "big businesses" in the United States.Who is the oldest richest family? ›
Despite an $11 billion loss in July 2022 after Walmart's earnings fell, the Walton family is still the wealthiest family in the world with a net worth of nearly $200 billion, Insider reports. Sam Walton was the founder of Walmart, and left behind his legacy and wealth to his three children and their families.What is the oldest family owned restaurant in America? ›
The White Horse Tavern is the “oldest operating restaurant in the U.S.” and is acknowledged as the 10tholdest in the world. The White Horse Tavern is a National Historic Landmark being America's oldest restaurant, having served guests since 1673.
What is the largest privately owned family business in the US? ›
For example, Google is one of the most recognized brands in the world.What brand is older than LV? ›
Hermès! The French fashion house is the world's oldest luxury brand still in operation today. It was established in 1837 by Thierry Hermès.What is the oldest clothing brand? ›
Brooks Brothers, founded in Manhattan, New York, in 1818, is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in America. Originally a family business, Brooks Brothers produces clothing for men, women and children, as well as home furnishings.What is the most American brand? ›
- Jeep (–)
- Disney (+1)
- Amazon, Walmart (+1, -1)
- Coca-Cola (+5)
- American Express, Ford (+1, -1)
- Apple, Coors (+6, +1)
- Levi Strauss (–)
- Hershey's (-1)
|2021 Rank||Company||2021 Score|
|#2||Honda Motor Company||81.6|
|Rank 2022||Brand||Country of Origin|
Founded in 1829, Delvaux is a truly Belgian brand. In fact, it was even born before the Kingdom of Belgium, which was only established one year later, in 1830.What is the oldest Italian fashion brand? ›
Gucci. Founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci, the label is one of the oldest Italian clothing brands going.What is the oldest jeans brand in the world? ›
First, allow us to give you a rundown on the storied and colorful history of jeans: 1853 – On May 1, German immigrant Levi Strauss founded the wholesale dry goods business, Levi Strauss & Co., in San Francisco after making money during the Gold Rush. This essentially makes Levi the first denim brand ever.
What is the oldest shirt? ›
The world's oldest preserved garment, discovered by Flinders Petrie, is a "highly sophisticated" linen shirt from a First Dynasty Egyptian tomb at Tarkan, dated to c. 3000 BC: "the shoulders and sleeves have been finely pleated to give form-fitting trimness while allowing the wearer room to move.What was the first brand in history? ›
In 1876, its red-triangle brand became the first registered trademark issued by the British government. Guinness World Records recognizes Tate & Lyle (of Lyle's Golden Syrup) as Britain's, and the world's, oldest branding and packaging, with its green-and-gold packaging having remained almost unchanged since 1885.What is the oldest men's clothing store? ›
1818. On April 7, 1818, Henry Sands Brooks founded H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. Today the company is the oldest men's clothing brand in the U.S. and one of the oldest permanent businesses in the country.What is the oldest cowboy clothing company? ›
Woolrich | 1830
If Brooks Brothers is America's oldest clothing retailer, Woolrich is the country's oldest purveyor of outdoor clothing. The company, founded by John Rich in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, 187 years ago, has always been dedicated to keeping people warm and upright in the great outdoors.