Tim Hortons restaurants were once an iconic Canadian business. Founded in 1964 in Hamilton, Ontario by pro hockey player Tim Horton (1930-1974) and Jim Charade (1934-2009), it was part of Canadian culture to grab a delicious coffee and a muffin with friends. It was a Canadian meeting place.
In 1967, Horton partnered with Ron Joyce until Horton’s death when Joyce took over operations.
In 2014, the American chain, Burger King, bought Tim Hortons for $11.4 billion and caused a mini-revolt here, losing some dedicated customers outraged that their beloved Timmies was now American owned. In December, 2014, Tim Hortons became a subsidiary of the Brazilian holding company, 3G Capital, keeping its head office in Toronto.
Quality control became an issue as more and more customers complained of burnt coffee and watered-down coffee. The restaurant’s ranking as Canada’s number one coffee preference fell. In 2017, a Maclean’s magazine survey of 1,500 coffee drinkers ranked McDonald’s as having the best coffee. Second Cup finished 2nd, Starbucks was 3rd and Tim Hortons was punted to 4th place. Last year, Tim Hortons dropped to 203rd spot on brand trust from the number one spot in 2015, according to the survey by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, in Victoria, B.C. And while we’re at it, I’ve noticed that muffins have lost their appeal too, becoming more like sweet and airy cupcakes.
Throughout its years, though, one thing has been steadfastly true to the restaurants. They always sold 100% Canadian milk. Always, that is, until now.
It has been announced that, while the Tim Horton restaurants stores will serve 100% Canadian milk, the same is not true for flavoured ice cappuccino and iced-coffees ready-to-drink in plastic bottles and sold in grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores across Canada. And with summer coming, those beverages will be in big demand. “These products are temporarily being produced in the U.S.,” reported the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Apparently the foreign owners of Tim Hortons have struck a deal with Coca-Cola Limited, owners of the fairlife brands of American milk currently sold in Canada, supposedly on a trial basis. The deal was made, the story goes, due to Coca-Cola’s distribution system which would allow the iced coffees to be easily shipped and sold across Canada. The fact is that iced coffee now made of American ultra-filtered milk and not Canadian product is purely “coincidental.”
The story continues that, when (if) Coca-Cola builds a plant in Peterborough, Ontario, in 2021 to process Canadian milk with their ultra-filtered processing, then Tim Hortons iced coffee will also go back to using Canadian milk. All this is dependent on the fairlife brand selling well enough in Canada to warrant opening a plant here. If a plant doesn’t get built, we might still see Tim Hortons iced coffees in plastic bottles with American milk in our grocery stores.
Personally I find it incredible that no one at Tim Hortons was able to find a Canadian dairy processor with the distribution range they required. No one? Only Coca-Cola/fairlife? Unbelievable.
This has changed our family’s association with the Tim Horton franchises from rarely to never. If they cannot support Canadian dairy NOW then they will not receive any of our money.
We dairy farmers are not alone in our disappointment and objection to Tim Hortons. Sixty Tim Hortons restaurants around Toronto will launch a new menu that will test-market Beyond Meat breakfast sandwiches with no meat in the product. I suspect livestock producers are also not amused.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.