The Mt. Olive Pickle History
A Modest Beginning
Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc., located at the Corner of Cucumber & Vine in Mount Olive, North Carolina, was originally founded for the purpose of brining cucumbers to be sold to other pickling firms.
When this initial plan didn’t exactly work out, the young company found itself in sort of a, well, you know.
Fortunately, resourcefulness prevailed, a new plan was prepared, and the company quickly began processing and packing pickles itself.
From a modest beginning in 1926, with only a 3,600 square foot building and $19,500 in capital, Mt. Olive has grown to manufacture the best selling brand of pickles in the Southeast, and the best selling brand of pickles in the country.
A Community Proposition
It all started in the mid 1920s with Shickrey Baddour, a Lebanese immigrant from nearby Goldsboro, who saw opportunity in the wasted cucumber crops of area farmers. Baddour came up with the idea of buying the cucumbers, putting them in a brining tank and selling the brined cucumbers, or brine stock, to other pickle firms. Baddour enlisted the aid of George Moore, a sailor from Wilmington who had worked in a Castle Hayne pickle plant. The plan didn’t work the way they had envisioned, however: they had no buyers for their product.
By January 1926, a new plan was put into place through the efforts of a group of local business people who formally established the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, Inc. to pack and sell its own pickles. Thirty-seven original shareholders put forward the capital to get the company started in what all viewed as a “community proposition.” The board of directors hired Moore as factory superintendent and Baddour as salesman, and it purchased one acre of land from farmer J.A. Westbrook for $1,000. The land is part of the current manufacturing site today. Westbrook’s home still stands across from the plant.
Early records indicate that all production that first year was done by hand: the cucumbers were taken from the vats to nearby tables, where old coffee pots were used to pour syrup into jars.
Ahead Of Its Time
Over the years, Mt. Olive earned a reputation as being ahead of its time. In 1943, the company instituted a profit sharing plan for its employees, making it one of the first 200 companies in the country to do so. (It didn’t break the $1 million sales mark until 1947.)
Later, in 1959, it put into place an Employee Community Fund. The program started with about $1,000. Over the years, the fund, governed by a committee of employees, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to community organizations. Today, participating employees contribute 30 cents out of every $100 of gross wages, which the company matches.
Place In History
Pickles have been around for about 4,000 years. But researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Fermentation Lab at N.C. State University finally unlocked the secret of controlled fermentation through research done at Mt. Olive Pickle Company in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The research paved the way for better pickles throughout the industry. In 1969, Mt. Olive became the first food processor in the nation to use high fructose corn syrup in its products in place of sugar. Another first came in 2002, when the company introduced the first line of No Sugar Added sweet pickle products, using the no calorie sweetener SPLENDA® brand sweetener. And, in 2007, Mt. Olive rolled out its picklePAK™ line – the first pickle products offered in single-serve cups.
Mt. Olive celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2006. The company is the largest privately held pickle company in the U.S., with continued sales growth into new markets.
“Our business decisions continue to be guided by basic tenets that have served our Company well over the years: 1) provide customers with quality products, good value and superior service, 2) earn shareholders a fair return on investment, 3) be a progressive employer and 4) remain a valued corporate citizen.” So writes Company President Bill Bryan to shareholders in the 2001 annual report.
Those tenets obviously served the company well for its first 80 years, and it’s a good bet they will hold true for the next 80, too.