Hubbard Peanut Company

An interview with Lynne H. Rabil, president of Hubbard Peanut Company

Hubbard Peanut Company Logo

APC: How did Hubbard Peanut Company start?

Hubbard House OriginalLR: After growing up in the depression and my dad serving during WWII and the Korean conflict, starting life was not easy for my parents and many others of their generation. Our mother, Dot, was a school teacher but after I was born she decided not to return to teaching. Before long twins were on the way (born 18 months after me) and she wanted a little extra spending money to help my dad take care of our growing family in Sedley, Virginia. Having been raised in the largest peanut producing county in the country, she remembered how popular her family’s recipe for snack peanuts had been with her college friends during the war years. She knew that most people had never experienced the taste of top-quality Virginia peanuts, so with a great family recipe and a supply of peanuts grown on her father’s farm, Dot had everything needed to start a home-based business. We can’t pinpoint the day my dad first sold and delivered Dot’s unique peanuts to the Virginian Drugstore on Main Street in Franklin, but we know the year was 1954 and the price of a 1 oz. bag of Hubs peanuts was ten cents.

APC: Planters Peanuts were processed at that time next door in Suffolk. How did Hubbard Peanut compete?

LR: The process that Dot pioneered was different from Planters dry roasted snack peanuts. She perfected a technique/recipe that called for blanching peanuts in water before frying in oil. Ultimately, Dot’s specification for the largest peanuts from the crop and those that were too large to go through the peanut planting equipment became a new and highly sought after, but “unofficial,” USDA grading standard of Super Extra Large. I don’t think people were accustomed to the idea of giving peanuts as gifts until Dot began shipping gourmet Virginia peanuts directly into people’s homes and businesses.

APC: How did your father get involved?

LR: We’ve been telling Dot’s story throughout the years, but true success required teamwork. My dad’s hard work and entrepreneurial vision were as important as Dot’s daily juggle to manage family and business. HJ worked a full-time job at a paper company but, after work and on the weekends, he was integrally involved in every aspect of business at Hubbard Peanut Company – from designing packaging to planning and overseeing every building or equipment expansion. Early on, “Hub” (as he was known) was the key delivery man, dropping off small packets of peanuts that carried his nickname everywhere he went. Later as the business grew and with help from local machinists, HJ invented equipment that would allow Dot to cook large volumes of peanuts more efficiently while maintaining freshness and quality.

APC: When did the family realize Hubbard Peanuts could be a viable and sustaining business?

LR: By the time my brother was born in 1958 (there were now four children), Dot was fully immersed in a thriving business and had moved beyond the kitchen to a separate building on the property for cooking and packaging. She began to hire people to assist. We children were always cheap labor, but I think the first iteration of a continuous cooking operation began around 1960. That’s when my parents knew Hubbard Peanut Company might send the four of us to college.

APC: How did technology change the business?

LR: When Dot decided to start a business, there weren’t many mail order companies and even fewer who were shipping gourmet gift foods. There was no system for zip codes in the U.S. UPS wasn’t operating in Virginia and FedEx had not yet been founded. At the time, there was no such thing as a credit card. Most typewriters were manual, and computers were only a dream.

Over the years, we transitioned with technology as needed and have tried to stay on the cutting edge while continuing to do things in the same manner that my parents did as far as attention to detail, quality and taking care of our customers.

APC: How has the American Peanut Council helped your business?

Hubbard House fullLR: The one thing that the Hubbard family has never lost sight of throughout time is quality.

Since joining the American Peanut Council in 2013, one of the most important benefits is to be surrounded by like-minded professionals – and professionals who are passionate about this industry.

From sourcing the best peanuts of the harvest to ensuring top notch service, the experience of each Hubs customer is paramount and on the minds of every member of the Hubs team. APC supports our mission and goals by offering thoughtful leadership on food safety, sustainability, and crisis and risk management.

With ever changing technology, advances in the logistics industry, training and maintaining employee health and safety, safeguarding private information, increasing government regulations, as well as many other factors of growth and competition, we rely on APC for peanut-focused research, workshops, and education related to changes within the industry.

APC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

LR: The goal of the Hubbard family and team members is to never lose sight of how and where the journey began. That’s not too hard because, today, Hubs are still cooked in Sedley, right where they were originally born.

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