Meet Juan Valdez of 100% Colombian Coffee

Meet Juan Valdez of 100% Colombian Coffee

April 16 - 2021

Coffee Geography Magazine

Juan Valdez is a fictional character who has appeared in advertisements for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia since 1958. But what many don’t know is that this character is a US creation designed by DDB (Doyle DaneBernbach ad agency)founder William Bernbach with the goal of distinguishing 100%-Colombian coffee from coffee blended with beans from other countries. 

William Bernbach, DDB
William Bernbach, Founder of DDB

The agency's first ads were for Ohrbach's department store exemplifying a new "soft-sell" approach to advertising - with catchy slogans and witty humour contrasting the repetitive and hard-sell style in vogue. The new agency was initially successful in winning business for clients with small budgets. Their campaigns for Volkswagen throughout the 1950s and 1960s were said to have revolutionized advertising. Notable campaigns included the 1959 Think Small series of Volkswagen advertisements, which was voted the No. 1 campaign of all time in Advertising Age's 1999 The Century of Advertising.


Juan Valdez typically appears with his mule Conchita, carrying sacks of harvested coffee beans in the Colombian Coffee Ads. He has become an icon for Colombia as well as coffee in general, and Juan Valdez's iconic appearance is frequently mimicked or parodied in television and other media.

Colombian Coffee Juan-Valdez Carlos Sanchez

Juan Valdez was initially portrayed by a Cuban actor, José F. Duval in both print advertisements and on television until 1969. He then had been embodied by Carlos Sánchez since 1969 and voiced by Norman Rose. In 2006, Sánchez announced his retirement, and Carlos Castañeda, a grower from the town of Andes, Antioquia, was selected by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia as the new face of Juan Valdez. 

Sanchez has promoted Colombian coffee since 1969 with a leather bag, bushy mustache and straw hat typical of rural Colombia. He inherited the role from Jose Duval, a Cuban, who became the first Juan Valdez in 1959.

The Juan Valdez trademark has become one of the most recognizable in the world, the fictional figure one of the most famous Colombians of all time. Juan Valdez even made it to Hollywood, sharing a scene with Jim Carrey in the film “Bruce Almighty.”


Colombians have been thankful to Valdez for presenting another side of their country, which often is seen abroad as a haven for drug traffickers.


“I feel like a flag. I feel like I’ve represented the country,” Sanchez said once. “There is a big sense of gratitude from Colombians abroad for this.”


Coffee is the national product of this South American nation and was crucial in the country’s early economic development as the world’s third top exporter. It’s rare to find a Colombian who does not start his or her day with a shot of “tinto,” heavily sweetened black coffee. The bean also is used to make alcoholic drinks, candy and soft drinks.

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