The Valdosta-based South Georgia Pecan Company, the second-largest pecan-shelling company in the nation, began as a small family business in the early 1900s. It has grown into a privately owned industry leader because of its easy access to local nuts and its emphasis on using the latest technology. (The country’s largest pecan sheller is John B. Sanfilippo and Sons of Texas.) In 2006 South Georgia Pecan Company, which processes at least 50 million pounds of pecans a year, moved into a 200,000-square-foot plant formerly owned by Levi Strauss and Co., bolstering its already strong business of selling to food manufacturers, supermarket chains, and individuals. In 2005 the company’s revenues totaled between $60 million and $70 million.
In 1905 the Pearlman family of Valdosta founded the company and in 1913 incorporated the business. In 1967 it was purchased by Beatrice Foods, located in Beatrice, Nebraska, which helped the company become more competitive nationally. After Beatrice was dismantled in 1983, the company was purchased by Ed Crane and Jim Worn, who still run the company today. By focusing on product quality and solid customer service, the company continues to grow.
South Georgia Pecan Company shells at least 160,000 pounds of pecans a day, using the latest technology to shell, sort, and perform laboratory tests to guarantee the quality of each pecan. About 70 to 80 percent of the company’s pecans come from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, depending on the quality of the crops. Once the pecans are shelled, the company grinds the shells (and also buys other companies’ shells) and sells them to plywood and furniture manufacturers. These manufacturers mix the pecan-shell flour with resin to create a product that looks like real wood. South Georgia Pecan Company has the only pecan-shell grinding plant in the world.
The company’s main business, however, is nuts. The company supplies such food manufacturers as Nestle and Russell Stover, as well as large supermarket chains, with all manner of nuts—among them almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts. The nuts are often used to make baked goods, candy, ice cream, and other treats. South Georgia Pecan employs 70 to 100 employees year-round and takes on additional seasonal workers during the busy holidays.