North Carolina’s Famous Foods
Formerly known most widely for its production of tobacco, North Carolina is now receiving national recognition for its best-known snack products and foods. Here are some stories of a few good ideas, gone great!
Vernon Rudolph founded Krispy Kreme in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1937 and sold his first doughnuts for 25 cents a dozen after borrowing the ingredients from a near-by grocer. Since then, business has taken off.
In April of 2000, Krispy Kreme held an initial public offering of common stock on the NASDAQ and by May of 2001, the company’s common stock transferred to the New York Stock Exchange.
Today, Krispy Kreme produces millions of doughnuts a day. The company has grown to serve customers in more than 33 states and Canada. Krispy Kreme products are also sold at thousands of supermarkets, convenience stores, and other retail outlets around the country.
Sometimes known as the “nectar of the tarheels,” Cheerwine was first formulated in the basement of L.D. Peeler’s wholesale grocery store in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1917. The drink’s popularity grew in parts of North and South Carolina.
The company has been passed down through three generations of Peeler’s family using their old-style marketing for the growth of the brand throughout the heartland. In 1980 a new marketing strategy was implemented and by 1986 sales had doubled and ever since, Cheerwine has continued to expand. It can now be found not only in the Carolinas, but Georgia, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Pepsi-Cola began in a drugstore in New Bern, North Carolina in 1896 at the hands of pharmacist, Caleb Bradham. His aim was to create a fountain drink that was both delicious and healthful in aiding digestion and boosting energy.
Bradham’s drugstore housed a soda fountain where the small-town clientele would meet to socialize. It was at such gatherings that he would offer his latest concoction that became known as “Brad’s Drink.” Soon its popularity would exceed New Bern.
By 1902, the demand from surrounding drugstores increased so dramatically it dawned on Bradham that Pepsi-Cola was something special. On December 24, 1902 he filed incorporation papers with the state of North Carolina indicating plans for corporate branches in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.
Today consumers spend billions on various Pepsi-Cola beverages. Many of PepsiCo’s brand names were established over 100 years ago, but now the corporation consists of Frito-Lay, Tropicana and most recently, Quaker Oats.
Nope, Texas is not the birthplace of Texas Pete hot sauce, and – you guessed it – Texas Pete was not developed by a man named Pete. Actually, the spicy condiment was developed in the 1940s in Winston-Salem.
Three brothers, Thad, Ralph and Harold; father Samuel and “Mother Jane” began their business making the sauce in pots on the cook stove in their family home. The brothers thought the hot sauce should be named “Mexican Joe” but their dad insisted on an American name, maybe “texas” but “texas what?” Samuel looked at son Harold who was nicknamed “Pete” and the name was set: Texas Pete!
The recipe is still a secret and headquarters are still in Winston-Salem. Family members hold the primary positions and their product line has expanded to include Buffalo Wing Sauce, Honey Mustard, Chili, Pepper Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce.
Wilbur Hardee opened the first Hardee’s restaurant in 1960 on a popular street corner in Greenville, NC. At the time, a hamburger cost 15¢. Wilbur offered customers “charco-broiled” hamburgers, fast service and a drive-through window.
Five months later, he had his first franchisee and over the years his burger chain has spread to become a favorite throughout the Midwestern and Southeastern United States.
The company went public in 1963 and Hardee left the company soon thereafter. However, he went on to launch 85 different restaurants throughout the Southeast, such as Biscuit Town, Hot Dog City and Beef & Shake. According to his daughter, he just loved to serve food, though it’s said he never cooked at home.
Mt. Olive Pickles
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. 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 second best-selling brand of pickles in the country.
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.
The people and the town of Mount Olive have never strayed far from its roots. The downtown still has the railroad track running through it, and traffic still stops each day as the freight train rumbles through. Many a child still rushes to the front of stores on Center Street to watch it slowly pass.
Celebrations include the Annual NC Pickle Festival in April and the New Year’s Eve "Pickle Drop," when a pickle drops 45 feet down a flagpole.
added: January 4, 2009
updated: November 17, 2011
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