The 2015 Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands in America
We asked more than 4,500 Americans to vote for the products they trust across 40 categories. Here, the brands you picked that deliver quality, value, and reliability, and fascinating facts you never knew about them.
Most Trusted Cereal: Kellogg’s
The first Kellogg’s cereal began with a failed attempt to make granola—W.K. Kellogg accidentally turned wheat berry into flakes. He tried flaking corn next, and in 1906, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes hit the market. Kellogg’s Raisin Bran launched during World War II; it was important for Americans to eat nutrient-packed whole grains during food rationing.
Reader’s Digest surveys its readers every year so that you know which products you can trust when shopping. Check out the results of the 2020 Trusted Brands survey.
Most Trusted Fast Food/Casual Dining: McDonald’s
The first restaurant—a BBQ joint!—was founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernadino, California in 1940. Ray Kroc bought the franchise rights and opened his first restaurant 15 years later. Today, McDonald’s Golden Arches are said to be the most recognized symbol in the world. There are almost more than one-and-half times more McDonald’s locations than hospitals in the America: 14,350 versus 10,660. McDonald’s best-selling menu item? French fries!
Most Trusted Automobile (Import): Toyota
Toyota’s history starts with textiles. The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937 as a spinoff of his father’s business, Toyoda Loom Works. The senior Toyoda invented textile machinery, including a power loom. “Toyota” was reportedly a luckier name and easier to write in Japanese. In 2014, Toyota Motor sold 10.23 million vehicles worldwide, more than any other automotive company.
Most Trusted Automobile (Domestic): Ford
$850—that’s what the Ford Model A, the first vehicle produced using Ford’s innovative moving assembly lines—first sold for on July 23, 1903. (That’s nearly $23,000 in today’s dollars). Today, the Ford Motor Company is the second-largest automobile company in the world, with about 195,000 employees and 66 plants worldwide. This year, the iconic Mustang celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Most Trusted Pet Food: Purina
With a goal of feeding America’s hard-working farm animals high-quality food, Purina was founded in 1894 by partners William Danforth, George Robinson, and Will Andrews. The name came from a company slogan, “Where purity is paramount.” Using special technology in 1956, Purina Dog Chow was the first pet food made into shapes we now know as “kibble.” Fun fact: Dogs on Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s expedition to Antarctica in 1933 ate Purina Dog Chow—and did well in the harsh climate.
Most Trusted Soup: Campbell’s
Of the many products the Joseph A. Campbell preserve company was producing around the start of the 20th century, soup was most beloved by customers. So in 1922 founder Joseph Campbell changed his business’s name to Campbell Soup Company. Fun fact: Campbell’s debuted its ready-to-eat tomato soup in 1895. Now, condensed tomato soup is one of the top 10 shelf-stable food items sold in America. Campbell’s chicken noodle and cream of mushroom soups also make this list.
Most Trusted Coffee: Folgers
The Folgers coffee we know and love was born out of the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. When James A. Folger, who was working for Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills in San Francisco, started mining for gold, he brought samples of coffee and spices and would take orders from grocery stores. Folger eventually became a partner in Pioneer Steam Coffee, then bought out the other partners and renamed the company. Fun fact: The original “Best Part of Wakin’ Up” jingle debuted in 1984. Singers have performed country, gospel, jazz, R&B, folk, Celtic, and a Capella versions of the tune.
Most Trusted Spices/Seasonings: McCormick & Company
Willoughby McCormick and his staff of three young workers began selling flavor extracts, fruit syrups, and juices door to door in 1889, working out of a cellar in Baltimore. Today, McCormick & Company makes custom flavors for eight of the top 10 global food-service restaurants. The company’s products can account for 90 percent of a meal’s flavor for just 10 percent of its cost.
Most Trusted Juice: Tropicana
Sicily native Anthony T. Rossi founded Tropicana after spending a number of years in Florida in the 1940s packing fruits for gift boxes to be sold in department stores like Macy’s and Gimbels. He began producing frozen concentrated orange juice and then, in 1954, developed the flash pasteurization process that led to the company’s most well known product, Tropicana Pure Premium. Today, Tropicana buys about one-third of all oranges grown in Florida.
Most Trusted Bottled Water: Dasani
Dasani was launched in 1999 by the Coca-Cola company. Up to 30 percent of a Dasani water bottle is made from plants, specifically Brazilian sugarcane byproduct.
Most Trusted Laundry Detergent: Tide
Tide has been the top-selling laundry detergent for more than 60 years, but no one can remember how or why the product got its name. Researcher David Byerly worked for more than 10 years to create the first heavy-duty synthetic laundry detergent, called Project X during development. Tide was revolutionary when it launched in 1946, transforming laundry from a laborious chore into a much easier task. Today, the detergent has quite a loyal fan base. In a 2009 survey, Tide was among the top three brands that people (at all income levels) would be least likely to give up, regardless of the recession.
Most Trusted Toothpaste: Crest
Dental disease was one of America’s biggest health problems in the early 1940s. Procter & Gamble began researching ingredients that could be added to toothpaste to help prevent tooth decay. They partnered with a research team at Indiana University to develop a toothpaste with fluoride. After successful clinical studies—in one, children experienced nearly a 50 percent reduction in cavities—Crest hit the market in 1956. In 1960, the American Dental Association recognized Crest as the first toothpaste to effectively prevent cavities.
Most Trusted Bathroom Tissue: Charmin
After an employee of the Hoberg Paper Company of Green Bay Wisconsin described the company’s toilet paper packaging designs as “charming,” the brand, which launched in 1928, landed its iconic name. In a now-classic advertising campaign, the fictitious grocer Mr. George Whipple told his customers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” in more than 500 commercials that aired between the 1960s and 1980s.
Most Trusted Paper Towels: Bounty
Bounty paper towels were originally branded as Charmin paper towels. In 1957, Procter & Gamble acquired the line. After years of research, the company replaced the current product with a thicker two-ply version that was more absorbent, the first of its kind when it launched in 1965. Early commercials featured the iconic Rosie, who introduced the brand’s famous “Quicker Picker-Upper” slogan.
Most Trusted Air Freshener: Glade
Glade debuted in 1956 as a way to banish cooking and tobacco odors. The original product came in two fragrances—Blossom and Evergreen. Now there are 50 scents. SC Johnson chemists created Glade based on breakthroughs made during the Korean War to eliminate hospital odors. Fun fact: Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed SC Johnson’s headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin.
Most Trusted Cleaning Product: Lysol
German doctor Gustave Raupenstrauch invented the first Lysol disinfectant in 1889 to help end a cholera epidemic. In 1918, Lysol was promoted as a way to fight a deadly flu pandemic. It became available in drug stores and hospitals in 1930. Today, Lysol partners with a number of public-health organizations as part of its Mission for Health campaign, including the CDC, the PTA, and National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.
Most Trusted Facial Moisturizer/Cream: Olay
South African chemist Graham Gordon Wulff developed a skin treatment during World War II to prevent pilots’ burns from getting dehydrated. With help from his wife Dinah, he later tweaked his product to become a moisturizer for women. At first they sold the product, called Oil of Ulan, door to door in South Africa before expanding internationally. Under Procter & Gamble, the brand name changed to Olay in 2000. Today, Olay runs over 400,000 safety and quality tests on its products each year. More than 1,000 employees around the world work full time on these tests.
Most Trusted Soap/Body Wash: Dove
The Dove brand launched in 1957 with the Beauty Bar. It was different from other bar soaps because it contained one-quarter moisturizing cream. Today, nearly half of all American households use Dove products. In 2004, Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty as a way to break stereotypical perceptions of beauty. Now called the Dove Movement for Self-Esteem, the campaign encourages women to recognize their individual beauty.
Most Trusted Women’s Deodorant/Antiperspirant: Secret
When it launched in 1956, Secret was the first deodorant made and marketed exclusively for women. The brand’s famous tag line, “Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” was introduced in 1972. An advocate for female empowerment, Secret launched the Let Her Jump campaign in 2010 to make women’s ski jumping an Olympic sport. The International Olympic Committee included the sport in the 2014 Winter Games.
Most Trusted Men’s Deodorant/Antiperspirant: Old Spice
Introduced in 1937, the first Old Spice product, Early American Old Spice, was actually made for women. The first male product debuted a year later. Founder William Lightfoot Schultz wanted the brand to have a colonial theme and chose sailing ships as a trademark. The original ships that appeared on the packaging were the Grand Turk and the Friendship.
Most Trusted Shampoo/Conditioner: Pantene
A high-end hair care line in Switzerland in 1945, Pantene came to America in the 1960s because of demand from European travelers. It launched in upscale stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. Remember “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”? The popular advertising campaign, combined with Procter & Gamble’s acquisition in 1985, helped make Pantene accessible to all women. In 2006, Pantene launched its “Beautiful Lengths” program to encourage women to donate their hair to cancer patients. It has collected more than 600,000 ponytails and funded the creation of more than 34,000 free real-hair wigs.
Most Trusted Body Lotion/Moisturizer: Jergens*
Andrew Jergens Sr. founded The Jergens Soap Company (with partner Charles H. Geifus) in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1882. The very first product? Coconut oil soap. Today, the company’s Shea Beauty Oil is made from shea nuts collected and harvested almost exclusively by women in West Africa, where shea butter is considered a source of empowerment and community. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Body Lotion/Moisturizer: Aveeno*
Albert and Sidney Musher believed in the power of classic remedies to soothe everyday health issues. They experimented with raw cereal to discover finely milled colloidal oatmeal bath, which can help treat everything from sunburn to eczema to chickenpox. Aveeno, which the Mushers founded in 1945, got its name from Avena sativa, the Latin word for oat. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Hair Color: L’Oreal
L’Oréal was originally called Société Française des Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux, or the Safe Hair Dye Company of France, when it was founded in 1909. Today, L’Oréal hair color products come in 40 different shades, including dark blonde, copper, and burgundy.
Most Trusted Mass Merchandiser Retail Store: WalMart
Sam Walton opened the first Walmart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. He originally wanted to buy a department store in St. Louis, Missouri, but his wife Helen insisted she wanted to live in a small town. By 1979, Walmart opened 276 stores, had 21,000 employees, and reached $1 billion in sales. Today, Walmart has nearly 11,000 stores in 28 countries. The company’s best-selling item (out of more than $405 billion in annual sales)? The humble banana has earned this honor for the past few years.
Most Trusted Online Shopping Site: Amazon
When Amazon opened its virtual doors in 1995, it offered only books. The first one sold? The scintillating Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. Amazon began selling music, DVDs, and videos in 1998, with other consumer products available the following year. In 2014, customers ordered more than 2 billion products on the site.
Most Trusted National Pharmacy/Drug Store: Walgreens*
As a teenager, Charles Walgreen injured his finger in an accident working at a shoe factory. He could no longer play sports, so he got a job at Horton’s Drugstore in Dixon, Illinois. Walgreen later moved to Chicago and worked with some of the city’s leading pharmacists before opening his own store—just 50 x 20 feet in size—in 1901. It was known for its customer service. While taking phone orders, Walgreen repeated the order slowly and kept talking so his assistant could deliver the goods before the customer hung up the phone. Today, Walgreens is America’s largest drugstore chain with more than 8,200 stores. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted National Pharmacy/Drug Store: CVS Pharmacy*
Know what CVS stands for? “Consumer Value Stores.” The first location opened in 1963 in Lowell, Massachusetts, selling health and beauty products; the first stores with pharmacies opened a few years later. By 1985, the company reached $1 billion in annual sales. Today, CVS has 7,800 retail pharmacies. CVS made recent headlines when it committed to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products to help customers commit to a healthier lifestyle. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Pet Care Products: Hartz
It all started with singing canaries. In 1926, a near-penniless Hartz founder Max Stern left Germany for America. A friend who owed Stern a modest sum could pay back the loan only with a bounty of canaries—5,000, to be exact. So Stern immigrated with them and sold them to the John Wannamaker Department Store on New York City’s Astor Place. For years, Stern traveled back and forth to Germany to import canaries, selling them at such stores as R.H. Macy, Sears Roebuck, and F.W. Woolworth. In 1932, he expanded into packaged bird food and then into products for cats, dogs, and other pets. By 1980 Hartz products were sold in more than 40,000 locations across America and Canada.
Most Trusted Headache/Pain Reliever: Tylenol
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, was discovered in Europe in the late 1800s, when French doctors found that a similar drug treated pain and fever in a patient with intestinal parasites. But it would take nearly half a century for the medication to be widely available in America. A father-and-son company, McNeil, launched the first Tylenol product in 1955—TYLENOL Elixir for Children, available only by prescription. It was approved for over-the-counter sales in 1960. Among the company’s important innovations: safety-sealed, tamper-resistant packaging (1982); Gelcaps, an easier-to-swallow new dosing form (1988); and Rapid Release Gels, designed with holes for faster effects (2005).
Most Trusted Herbal & Vitamin Supplements: Nature Made
Launched in 1972, Nature Made today fills 120 million bottles with its products each year. In 2002, it became the first dietary supplement to enter the verification process from the United States Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit that sets federally recognized standards for medicines, supplements, and foods. Nearly 70 Nature Made products are USP verified.
Most Trusted Cold & Flu Remedy: NyQuil
NyQuil fans have Lunsford Richardson, a Greensboro, North Carolina pharmacist, to thank for helping soothe their symptoms. Richardson created and sold 21 home remedies under the brand Vicks in the 1890s; Croup and Pneumonia Salve was its best-selling product. More than half a century later, NyQuil was born in 1966. The name NyQuil may have come from the phrase “nighttime tranquility.” Still recognizable by many today, the medicine’s classic slogan, “Nighttime, sniffling, sneezing…” debuted in 1979.
Most Trusted Eye Health Brand: Visine
Visine has used the famous slogan, “Gets the red out” in advertisements for more than 40 years. Its active ingredient, tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride, is a vasoconstrictor, which means it temporarily constricts blood vessels so redness is less visible. In some countries, Visine is known as Vispring.
Most Trusted Sleep Aid: ZzzQUIL*
You can thank the late George Rieveschl the next time you take ZzzQUIL. In 1943, the University of Cincinnati chemistry professor developed diphenhydramine, the active ingredient. While working on a way to improve muscle-relaxing medication, Rieveschl realized the compound effectively blocked histamines, which make you feel drowsy. Rieveschl originally wanted a career in commercial art, but went back to school to study chemistry after several job rejections. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Sleep Aid: Unisom*
Unisom, which has helped Americans nod off since 1978, uses an active ingredient similar to the one George Rieveschl discovered, but a chemical variation allows it to also block the brain chemical called acetylcholine; this also helps to promote drowsiness. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines
For most of the 20th century, cruises were considered luxury vacations for the very rich. In 1972, Israeli businessman Ted Arison founded Carnival Cruise Lines with a vision of making cruises accessible to everyone. Its first ship, the Mardi Gras, a secondhand ocean liner, only had enough fuel for a one-way trip from Miami to San Juan. In 2014 Carnival carried nearly 4.4 million guests, the most of any company in the cruise industry.
Most Trusted National Hotel Chain/Resort: Marriott International*
In 1927, John Willard Marriott and his wife Alice started selling A&W root beer to Washington, D.C. residents during hot, muggy summers—then turned the stand into a Hot Shoppes restaurant franchise that ultimately went public in 1954. A few years later, the family decided to go into the hotel business. In 1957, the first Marriott hotel opened in Arlington, Virginia with 365 rooms. It was the world’s first motel—inexpensive lodging specifically for motorists. Marriott now owns more than 4,100 properties around the world. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted National Hotel Chain/Resort: Hilton Hotels & Resorts*
Conrad Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, bought his first hotel in 1919—The Mobley, in Cisco, Texas—then acquired a number of other Texas hotels over the next few years. In 1943, Hilton became the first coast-to-coast hotel company after it acquired the Plaza and the Roosevelt in New York City (the first hotel to have TVs in guest rooms). Today, Hilton has more than 540 hotels and resorts in 78 countries, including the famed Waldorf Astoria, which is an official New York City landmark. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Airline: Southwest Airlines
More than 136 million people flew with Southwest, the nation’s largest low-cost air carrier, last year alone. The airline has had more than 1.5 billion customers since it was founded in 1967. Fun fact: Flight attendants served more than 100 million peanuts and more than 45 million pretzels in 2014.
Most Trusted Mobile Phone/Tablet: Apple
Apple initially wanted to use touch screens for a tablet computer, but after a prototype meeting in 2004, Steve Jobs realized that technology could be used for a phone. Production on what would be the iPhone began shortly afterward. To ensure its secrecy, employees referred to it as Project Purple. The first iPhone officially launched in early 2007 with the promise to “reinvent the phone.” Celebrities and dignitaries of all kinds use Apple products: Queen Elizabeth ordered an iPad after seeing Princes William and Harry use theirs. Today, more than 1 million apps are available for iPhone and iPad in the app store.
Most Trusted Computer: Dell*
Dell was originally called PCs Limited when it launched in 1984. An early customer—a lawyer—convinced a young Michael Dell (then a student at the University of Texas at Austin) to incorporate as Dell Computer Corporation (doing business as PCs Limited) in exchange for an updated hard drive and $1,000. It wasn’t until 1988 that Dell officially changed the name to Dell Computer Corporation. With the company expanding internationally, having “limited” in the name didn’t make sense. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Computer: Hewlett-Packard*
Before they became business partners in 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were friends at Stanford University. They flipped a coin to decide who would appear first in the company’s name. The company incorporated in 1947 and went public 10 years later. HP is considered a symbolic founder of Silicon Valley. *Statistical tie with another brand
Most Trusted Home Entertainment Electronics: SONY
What do you get when you combine “sonus,” the Latin for sound, with “sonny,” a young boy? SONY was also chosen because it is pronounced the same in any language. Here, a sample of the company’s many innovations: Japan’s first transistor radio (1955); world’s first direct-view portable TV (1960); the TPS-L2, the first stereo cassette player “Walkman” (1979); world’s first CD player, the CDP-101 (1982); and “Digital Handycam,” first consumer-use digital video camcorder (1995). More than 102 million units of the PlayStation game console have been sold since the product’s launch in 1994.
Most Trusted Credit Card: Visa
Visa started as Bank of America’s credit card program, BankAmericard, back in 1958. It was the first consumer credit card program accessible to middle-class Americans. Almost 20 years later, it became the independent, global entity we know today. Visa reached over 50 billion total transactions in 2010. Founder Dee Hock’s original vision for the company still holds true today: the best way to pay and be paid, for everyone, everywhere.
Most Trusted Life Insurance Company: MetLife
MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States and has about 100 million customers worldwide. In 1864, the National Union Life and Limb Insurance Company started insuring Civil War sailors and soldiers against wartime-related disabilities; after a difficult five years, the firm decided to focus solely on life insurance and re-branded itself as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Fun fact: Though the exact amount is not publicly available, MetLife likely pays around $12 million each year to use the Peanuts characters in advertisements.
Most Trusted Automotive Insurance: State Farm
When State Farm was founded in 1922 by retired farmer George J. Mecherle, it specialized in auto insurance for farmers. As of last year, the company was servicing 80 million policies across the United States and Canada. Fun fact: Remember the “Jake from State Farm” commercial? The actor, Jake Stone, was an actual State Farm agent. The famous khakis he wore in the commercial are autographed and framed in a bar called Pub II in Normal, Illinois.
To get a glimpse of all the winning brands from every year starting in 2015, check out the full list of Reader’s Digest’s Trusted Brands.