January 3, 2020

Back to the 1990’s: The Rise and Fall of the Coffee Shop Transit Muffin


With thanks to Duke of Data Andy Yan for the reference, here’s a memory for those of a Certain Age that were taking transit in Vancouver in the 1980’s and 1990’s. At that time, the city seemed to be covered with ubiquitous places where you could get muffins, most near transit hubs. Muffin shops also carried coffee, not the fancy stuff of Starbuck’s creativity but the kind that came straight out of a glass carafe, and usually had the consistency of caramel.

Karon Liu in the Star wrote last spring about the muffin trend, stating that “the bar (was) set by Toronto-based muffin chain Mmmuffins (full name: Marvellous Mmmuffins). In the chain’s ’80s and early ’90s heydays, almost every Canadian mall had a location that offered a rotating menu of flavours. Everyone had their favourite: some liked the cornmeal muffin, others peach bran, while my mom loved the seldom-seen pineapple muffin…”

Marvellous Mmmuffins started in 1979, was franchised, and peaked in the 1980 to 1990 years. By 2019, what was once a bevy of stores had shrunk to only two with one of them, the Second Cup, picking up on the new trend towards espresso and specialty coffee.

It may seem a weird trend now where people are careful about ingesting carbohydrates , but in the late 1980’s Liu observes that the muffin had the three ingredients necessary for the  “yuppie” (“Young Urban Professional”) lifestyle.

Those three items were convenience, taste, and nutrition. Not many food at that time  had all three elements.

Here’s the 1980 commercial for the “muffinizing” of the Dunkin’ Donuts Chain that added the fourth emotional element to its sales pitch~putting your Grandmother out of the muffin baking business.



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  1. Muffins have not only carbs, but a lot of fat as well. They also got to be so big in size that the calorie count was through the roof. Nowadays, you’ll see the size of muffins and other baked good reigned in to limit the calorie count – especially in fast food restaurants that prominently post the calorie counts like McDonalds.

    The same goes for the decline of those big greasy cookies (remember “Cookies by George”?) and cupcakes which have the ridiculous tower of fatty, sugary icing on top that everyone rips off and throws in the garbage.

    Here’s an article that shows how a breakfast sandwich is better than a muffin:

    4 Healthy Sounding Breakfasts That Aren’t
    1. Muffins
    You might think that choosing a reduced-fat option would save calories, but that’s not always the case.
    Diet-Busting Muffin: Dunkin’ Donuts Reduced-Fat Blueberry Muffin, 450 calories, 10 grams fat.
    Lighter Option to Order: Dunkin’ Donuts Egg and Cheese on an English Muffin, 320 calories, 13 grams fat.
    Savings: 130 calories.