John Anderson Adams, began making and selling extracts in Michigan in 1888. In 1905, he moved the family to Beeville, Texas. His wife was unhappy with the quality of the vanilla extract products available because she felt like they either baked or froze out. Mr. Adams decided to formulate one for her. When his wife tried the product, she was delighted and John replied, "Well, that's old man Adam's best." His vanilla extract became known as Adams Best Vanilla.
Mr. Adams, along with the help of his sons, Fred and Don, began to produce, package, and sell the vanilla extract door-to-door with a complete money back guarantee. After being the first to be awarded a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from University of Texas at Austin, Fred purchased the company from his father and relocated the production headquarters to Austin, Texas. In 1922, he built a two-story building downtown and continued production of the extracts and colors. Adams Extract is credited for having brought the Red Velvet Cake to kitchens across America during the time of the Great Depression by being one of the first to sell red food color and other flavor extracts with the use of point-of-sale posters and tear-off recipe cards. His son, John G. Adams, Sr., worked in the family business throughout his childhood, and after having received his BA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, he returned and helped expand the lines produced. In 1947, he designed and built the assorted food color 4-pack line that is still sold today.
In 1955, the company built a new plant, designed by the famous architecture firm Lundgren and Maurer on I-35. This plant helped aid in the expansion of the products to include spice lines in 1959. During this time, another important person played a big role in the company's recipe development, Betty Adams. Her name can be found on many of the original recipes boasted by the company including the "Adams 75th Anniversary Poundcake" or more commonly known as the Five Flavor Cake.
In 2000, architecture students at The University of Texas at Austin helped the Adams Extract Company design a new manufacturing campus at Buda, Texas, south of Austin.