Business As Usual

Remembering the iconic drinking glasses of Nescafé

- Jose Wendell Capili -

I drank my first cup of coffee at age sixteen. I got curious about it because my parents and relatives were drinking coffee all the time. One time, after watching a Nescafé frappe commercial on television during school break, I ran to the kitchen and prepared coffee for myself. I’ve been drinking coffee ever since.

What stood out from my adolescent memory is that I drank Nescafé from a glass that also served as its packaging. I remember convincing my mother to buy more of those Nescafé drinking glasses. My family collected dozens of jars, the diamond-cut ones most especially, in no time at all. I also noticed that families of my playmates in Sampaloc, Manila did the same too. Years later, my Nescafé jar-collecting playmates grew up to become luminaries in various disciplines: Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr. of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Manhattan-based novelist Bino Realuyo, US-based entrepreneur Joel Christopher Remandaban, sports broadcaster Mon Liboro, De la Salle-College of St. Benilde’s industrial design department chair Rino Datuin.

During the 1960s, the Philippines did not have Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Figaro. But there was Nescafé. And Filipinos satiated their coffee cravings with Nescafé, then all available in jars, the most popular being the 50g and the 75g drinking glasses.

In those days, powdered products were either in cans or glass. Cans were economical but jars had a special re-use value. The decision to pack Nescafé in the reusable drinking glass proved to be providential. The drinking glass, solid and durable, instantly became a household hit. While others bought them to start a collection (it’s always nice to see a kitchen with uniformed glassware), those far wiser bought them because they’re getting more value for their money. Imagine, you not only get a mere coffee container. You also get a glass which you can use for other things!

The rising popularity of the drinking glass coincided with a series of momentous events in Philippine popular culture and history: the crowning of Margarita Moran as Miss Universe (1973), the victory of Muhammad Ali over Joe Frazier in Thrilla in Manila (1974), the staging of the Miss Universe pageant in Folk Arts Theater, Manila (1974), the founding of the Philippine Basketball Association (1975), and the rise of Paeng Nepomuceno as a sports hero by winning the Bowling World Cup Champion in Tehran, Iran (1976).

These triumphs we celebrated with each diamond-textured glass jar of Nescafé, oblivious of the behind-the-scenes quandary the company’s production team was going through just to deliver those glass jars entire neighborhoods had been collecting.

You see, applying the labels on the surface of the diamond-textured Nescafé glass jars was quite a challenge. In the early years, the production team had to manually feed tube labels into the glass jars. You couldn’t begin to imagine how tedious it was. But with the introduction of the automated labeler, the process became much easier and saved the company both time and money.

Looking back, the glass jars somehow helped iconize Nescafé. For decades, we bought and drank our Nescafé in these compact reusable glass jars. Even up to this day, walk into any carinderia in Manila or in rustic Cagayan de Oro and you will likely find a NESCAFÉ glass jar sitting comfortably with some ceramic plates and mismatched silverware.

Former Nestle Philippines’ Communications Director Noy Dy-Liacco, who was the Group Product Manager for Coffee and Beverages at that time, shared that the evolution of the glass jars required the expertise of many people. The marketing, sales, packaging and production teams worked with the glass container supplier in developing new designs, a renovation that became a competitive advantage. One experiment was a diamond glass jar with a handle on one side, resembling a coffee mug. It was truly an innovative design but a nightmare at the filling line. In time, this design had to be discontinued.

By the time I went to college during the late 1980s, technological advancements in production allowed Nestle to pack NESCAFÈ in other formats such as the now very popular soft packs, a breakthrough that has made the product more affordable and accessible.

The Nescafe jars of old have become as symbolic of my growing up years as the animated robots on television. And the ones my mother collected remain kings and queens of our dish rack. Finals were reviewed, and term papers and thesis written with hot Nescafé in them. How wonderful to remember the good old times, and as we know, Nescafé never stops reinventing and improving on how our favorite coffee is packaged. I so look forward to the new generation of glass jars.

These days, whenever I visit my parents, I still insist on having my Nescafe prepared in any of these glass jars. Yes, I guess I love those drinking glasses more than I dare to admit.








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