February 7, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Robert French

In 1880 Robert T. French was winding down a career as a New York wholesaler of coffee, tea and spices. He had been born 57 years earlier in Ithaca, New York but rather than move back to the farm in retirement French had other ideas. He was going into business for himself.

Together with his sons George and Francis, French began to deal in a wide assortment of products, from spices to bird seed. By 1883 the Frenchs had moved upstate to Rochester and the little wholesale trade continued to expand. Robert French died in 1893 without ever considering the mustard that would propel the family name into everyday American life.

It was George and Francis who decided to counter the volcanic mustards of the day with a milder blend of seasonings. They blended a creamier mustard, hued bright yellow, called “French’s Cream Salad Mustard.” A nine-ounce jar sold for ten cents. For the first time consumers could buy a prepared mustard in a jar. The novel yellow mustard was introduced with the hot dog at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. By 1912 a new plant was needed in Rochester to satisfy demand. Another plant opened ten years later and in 1926 the French family sold their business to a British food company for nearly $4 million. By 1980, one hundred years after R. T. French set off on his own, 500,000 jars of French’s famous yellow mustard was being sold every day.

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