This post was written by Kelly Bennett, a Business Reference and Research Specialist in the Science, Technology and Business Division.
As the weather gets warmer, many of us will start reaching for iced coffee to help get us through the day. Last summer, Starbucks reported that cold drinks accounted for approximately 75% of their total beverage sales in the United States. Some even prefer an iced coffee or a cold brew all year long. Google Trends show only the slightest dip in web searches during the coldest months of the year.
Cold coffee was not always so popular. Despite a brief spike in popularity in the early 1920s iced coffee was not a typical American drink. Coffee sales would reliably drop as temperatures rose. For the Pan-American Coffee Bureau, this drop in sales was a problem in need of a solution. Formed in 1937, the Pan-American Coffee Bureau (PACB) was a cooperative of Latin American coffee growers whose mission was to promote coffee consumption in the United States, the largest market in the Western Hemisphere. In 1939, inspired by the popularity of iced tea, it launched a decades-long campaign to convince Americans to drink iced coffee.
The PACB launched another large advertising campaign for iced coffee in 1946, a few years after sponsoring a radio show, Over Our Coffee Cups, with Eleanor Roosevelt between September 1941 and April 1942 (the transcripts are available digitally through George Washington University). The PACB found much more success with the “Coffee Break” ads of the early 1950s, although they did not give up on promoting iced coffee. They launched a large-scale “Cool Off With Coffee” campaign in 1956.
In addition to their own ads, they encouraged the entire industry to promote iced coffee working in tandem with the National Coffee Association. They also produced publications such as Coffee, the Story of a Good Neighbor Product (1954) and Fun with Coffee (1956), which included multiple recipes for iced and frozen coffee. (These works and others are available in print at the Library of Congress, but they are also available digitally through other repositories.) According to the February 1956 issue of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, despite these promotional attempts, iced coffee did not take off.
For the next several years, the PACB and other industry leaders encouraged coffee purveyors to advertise coffee as a refreshing summer treat. But it was not until the 1990s, when large coffee chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts began offering icy coffee beverages, that iced coffee began to surge in popularity (see “Iced Coffee Market Gains Ground…” in Advertising Age from the September 4, 2000). The PACB dissolved before it could see iced coffee become a popular American drink.
Related Library of Congress research guides and blogs:
- Marketing Industry: A Resource Guide
- Coffee in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Research Guide
- Doing Industry Research: A Resource Guide
- Latin American Business and Economics Resources
- Inside Adams: Caffeine: The Motivation Molecule
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