Hancock Peanut Company

Alumnus launches peanut passion project

“A flash of Pirate-inspired flare adorns every can of Hancock Peanut Company. peanuts. The purple stripes on the logo of the golden legumes highlight the talents and family history of East Carolina University alumnus Scott Hancock Duke ’06 ’08.

Duke launched Hancock Peanut Co. in July and began a new retail chapter in his family’s peanut business history. Peanuts were not in his career plans when Duke was completing degrees in media production and health communications in the College of Fine Arts and Communication. Still, the family business and history were always on his mind.

Duke lives in Greenville and runs a digital marketing business where he manages his clients’ website design and social media marketing needs. The work fuels his new passion project.

Most people would be unaware that nearly everyone has a passing knowledge of Hancock Peanut Company. Duke’s great-grandfather, Robert Hancock Jr., created the original peanut man model – that became known as Mr. Peanut.

Duke said his great-grandfather was asked by the owner of Planter’s to carve the model from a sketch. Large wrought iron statues of Mr. Peanut topped the pillars around the factory in Suffolk, Virginia.

Hancock also contributed to the industry with his hand-built peanut sheller and started Hancock Peanut Company in Courtland, Virginia. They were buyers, sellers and shellers of high-grade Virginia peanuts. His shellers are in museums in Virginia.

Hancock Peanut Company

“He didn’t seek patents. He was an industrialist trying to figure out how to make something work and more interested in the next steps than thinking about down the road,” Duke said. “Today’s peanut shellers are a modernized version of the original.”

In the 1960s, Duke’s grandfather ran the company. He sold the company to his partners in the early 80s and retired.

Duke has long wondered what would have happened if the company had stayed in the family. His mother and her siblings may have had the opportunity to run the business if times had been different.Duke began researching the company name and history and found the name available. He trademarked the company name and kick-started the company’s new retail brand.

He said they were ecstatic when he approached the processors in Virginia to let them know he was starting a retail peanut business under the family banner. The processors work in the middle of the industry. They package the retail products that Duke sells.

Antique peanut jars and company memorabilia accent Duke’s home office. They inspired his designs for the company’s new logo. He’s building the business from the ground up. He processes orders, sells swag and writes a peanut news blog surrounded by the inspiration of the Hancock brand.

Duke says the jumbo peanuts selected for sale are from the top 1% of the crop. They are grown in Virginia and the Carolinas.

His current business is all about the No. 1 seller, the salted cocktail peanuts. He’s worked with local vendors to create peanut-themed shirts, ballcaps and a Hancock Peanut Co. tumbler. Chocolate covered peanuts launched in early winter and quickly became a top seller. A honey roasted version is now available.

Hancock Peanut Company

“People like peanuts. They are really fantastic,” Duke said. “Anyone who tries them comes back to order more.”

Duke loves his product and eats peanuts every day. He’s hopeful others will love them as much as he does. He regularly offers discounts to encourage customers to give them a try. Shoppers who enter the code PIRATECU will receive a discounted rate when they purchase peanuts.

More marketing efforts are on the way. ECU public relations student Kelsey Keene is working as a social media intern for Hancock Peanuts. Keene will focus on expanding the brand’s digital exposure.

Duke plans to grow his footprint in Greenville and throughout Pirate Nation gradually. The next steps include finding an investor or partner and a distribution effort to get Hancock peanuts on shelves in North Carolina retailers. Duke has gained ECU trademark licensing, and limited edition ‘Proud Pirate Peanuts’ are in the works with the ECU Alumni Association and expected to launch in mid-April.

To learn more about the company and peanut history, visit Hancock Peanut Co.


Shop Hancock Peanut Company, today!

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