Sweet relief

In which we say good riddance to a bad logo, and more

Published March 6, 2024

The green and gold packaging of Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup is very old and very weird. It has gone completely unchanged since 1885, holding the Guinness record in that category brand packaging—for now. 

The company has decided to make a change, removing the 139-year-old illustration of bees circling a dead lion. There’s a reason why they’ve legit had a dead (poisoned?) animal on the bottle for so long, but I’m afraid it’s not a satisfying one. The Scottish Presbyterian co-founder, Abram Lyle, was inspired by the biblical tale of Samson–you know, the strongman who killed a lion with his bare hands and found a beehive in its carcass. In the story, Samson exclaims, “Out of the strong came forth sweetness,” which Lyle figured was a good-enough marketing slogan for his sugar goop.

Lest you wonder about the new logo, it still has a lion, but just the head. No carcass, no biblical quotes, and … well, one bee, because otherwise how would you know it’s sweet?

Anyway, let’s take a look at some other old, old logos.

Oldest logo element

Sometimes it’s just elements of a logo that survive the years of artistic tweaks and changes. In the case of the Belgian beer Stella Artois, though the beer itself only dates to the 1920s, the horn has been a brewery trademark for six centuries, give or take.

The brewery in question is Den Hoorn–yes, “the horn”–and it was founded somewhere between 1366 and 1466 (naturally, the label touts the earlier date). It was in 1717 that brewmaster Sebastian Artois bought the company, and 1926 that they launched their well-known pilsner as a Christmas beer, hence “Stella.” But throughout, the horn and star of the original Den Hoorn brewery have stayed as prominent features on the Stella Artois logo.

Oldest logo

What’s not a secret? That Brits love tradition. The Twinings Tea Company is still family-owned since the global tea powerhouse first opened its doors on London’s Strand in 1706 (it’s still open today at the same location). Its famous logo first appeared on its storefront in 1787, 236 years ago. The logo features an elegant, timeless all-caps font with the Twinings wordmark and golden crest. It’s traditional and timeless and is likely recognizable in all of the 115 countries that are importers of their line of teas. 

First registered trademark logo

The first trademark registry was established in the U.K. in 1875, and in 1876, Bass Ale trademarked its red triangle. By 1890, the West Midlands brewery had become one of England’s market leaders. 

It helped that they were pioneers of product placement: Bass Ale appears in Edouard Manet’s 1882 painting A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, and gets name-dropped in James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922). But at least one such coup didn’t work out quite as well: in 1912, RMS Titanic carried 12,000 bottles to the bottom of the Atlantic. 

Oldest food logo

The Nestlé logo may have undergone a few changes since 1868, but it’s kept the main motif of a mama bird and two chicks in a nest. Company founder Henri Nestlé cut his teeth (so to speak) on a hypoallergenic baby formula, so it was a natural choice … plus “nestlé” roughly means “little nest” in German. (seltsamer Zufall means “weird coincidence.”)

Recently, the color palette changed from black to brown-gold, using color psychology to remind us of the bliss of biting into one of their chocolates. That’s the kind of edge you need to become one of the 10 companies that control the world’s packaged-food supply!

Oldest American logo

For a country that ranks so high on obesity charts, it’s interesting that our oldest logo is only tangentially related to food. John Deere has used a trademark image of a leaping deer since 1873; they registered it in 1876, when the eponymous founder was 72 years old.

If you’re looking for the oldest American F&B logo, that’d be Coca-Cola… and we’ve come full-circle to those obesity charts. USA! USA!