Kenco Coffee 1984

Advert for Kenco Coffee from 1984

Kenco is a brand of instant coffee, and roast & ground coffee distributed by Kraft Foods in the United Kingdom. Originally known as the Kenya Coffee Company, they started distributing coffee to Britain in 1923. Shortly after, they opened a coffee shop in Sloane Square and then changed their name to Kenco in 1962.

In 2008 the brand was relaunched with 75% of the beans for its instant range being sourced from Rainforest Alliance certified farms. The company sources their coffee beans from Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Indonesia.


Kenco was founded in 1923 by a co-operative of retired Kenyan coffee growers who traded as “The Kenya Coffee Company Limited”. Soon, LC Gibbs and CS Baines began selling coffee from a shop in Vere Street, Mayfair. The shop sold roast and ground coffee locally but most of its sales were by mail order – selling coffee to country houses using advertisements in publications like Tatler, Country Life and The Times.

As demand increased, the company moved to number 30 Sloane Street, London, next door to a food merchants called John Gardiner. Gardiner ran a food wholesale business, restaurants and provided outdoor catering at events such as Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

After WW2, Tom Kelly, a Gardiner employee, persuaded the company to buy The Kenya Coffee Company. On completion of the deal, Tom Kelly was put in charge of the new business and he expanded the retail chain. As well as selling coffee by mail order and from the Sloane Street premises, Kelly diversified into catering and opened eleven coffee shops on locations as Wimbledon, King’s Road and Golders Green. These Kenya Coffee Company shops may well have been the first branded high street coffee shop in the UK. In the 1960s, the cafes were thriving, selling not only coffee but all sorts of cakes as well. Besides the coffee shop activity, Tom Kelly also acquired the rights to sell Gaggia machines, and so the company started to sell espresso machines to other coffee bars.

During the 1960s, the Kenyan Coffee Company changed its name into the Kenco Coffee company, to reflect the fact that the amount of coffee the company bought from Kenya was decreasing.

Before being owned by Kraft Foods, the brand was owned by General Foods and before that Premier Brands.

Kenco purchases 75% of their coffee beans for their freeze dried range from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and aiming to make it 100% by 2010.

Info gleaned from Wikipedia

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