You’ve probably never heard of it, but Fleetwood Coffee was once a top-selling coffee brand in the South. Now, after four decades on the sidelines, the brand is being resurrected in the very city that brought it to life.
By Candice Graham
Fleetwood’s Younger Years
Grocers Henry and Kate King began roasting, packaging, and selling their own coffee from their Chattanooga grocery supply business in 1925. Soon, Fleetwood Coffee began to take off, prompting them to sell the grocery business and focus their efforts on their coffee creation. Sales of Fleetwood in the South eventually rivaled mega-popular brands such as Maxwell House and JFG, and at one time the brand was roasting more than 200,000 pounds of coffee per week. The original patents for instant coffee even belonged to Fleetwood.
The company stayed in the King family until the late 1960s when it was bought first by Minute Maid and then Coca-Cola. When Coke replaced the Fleetwood brand with a different coffee that didn’t sell well, they decided to sell all their coffee brands to Folgers, who eventually dropped Fleetwood altogether. The original Fleetwood Coffee name, slogans, and logos sat idle at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office until they were purchased by George McGee, the grandson of Henry and Kate, in 2013.
Rebirth of the Brand
Last year, George and his investors partnered with Jennifer Stone and Barry Burrell of the International Coffee Group. Jennifer brings her expertise as an international coffee judge and a licensed quality grader. As one of only 1,000 people worldwide who has the q-grader licensure, she can detect the subtle notes that separate the average coffee from the exceptional. “We’ve partnered with George to recreate the awesomely cool packaging from the Fleetwood era and to come up with a really solid, smooth grain coffee at a price point that is a little more grocery oriented,” Jennifer says.
Starting this summer, you’ll be able to try the resurrected brand yourself. Fleetwood Coffee will be sold in local coffee shops and restaurants, and 12-ounce bags and 8-count single-serve cups will be available at local grocery stores. And, for the first time in decades, the sweet smell of roasting Fleetwood Coffee beans will infuse Chattanooga streets.
Want to learn more about Fleetwood Coffee? Visit fleetwoodcoffee.com.