The Wilco Peanut Company started out as the first certified seed producer in Texas in 1947. The company has grown over the years to become a fifth generation shelling company with buying points throughout Texas.
How important has family been to the growth of the company?
“Wilco probably would not be in business today without the enthusiasm and efforts of the family, but I must credit a lot of great people who worked alongside the family. That said, I know I would not have wanted to stick with it when things were tough without the support of my Dad, my brothers and now my sons, son-in-law and nephews and our spouses,” says Byron.
The Wilco Peanut Co operates as a shelling facility and has numerous buying points throughout the state. Please explain to our readers what happens in a shelling facility and at a buying point?
Peanuts are received at the buying points from the producers as they are harvested. The loads typically contain some sand, pieces of the vine and possibly rocks or clods in addition to the peanuts in the shell (called farmer stock). The trucks are weighed on arrival. During the unloading of the trucks, the peanuts are passed across vibrating screens or through rotating reels to remove the loose sand, smaller rocks or dirt clods. The loads are then inspected to determine moisture content (10.49% or less is the safe storage level), and foreign material where the weight of foreign material is deducted from the weight of the load, as is moisture content in excess of 7%. A cleaned sample of the farmer stock is shelled to determine the percentages of sound mature kernels, sound splits (both used for edible products), other kernels and damaged kernels (both used for oil or for wildlife feed) and hulls (used for livestock feed, poultry litter, or as base material in drilling fluids). These percentages are used to determine a value for a ton of peanuts, usually based on the USDA price support chart. After inspection, farmer stock peanuts are moved to storage or immediately to shelling.
At the sheller facility, farmer stock peanuts are further cleaned prior to shelling to remove as much foreign material as possible. Shelling is done in a multi stage process to avoid unnecessarily splitting kernels. After shelling, peanuts are sorted electronically by color, visually by hand and then sized by vibrating screens and rotating reels to the specific requirements of the end user destined to receive the shelled peanuts. Packaging is in 50 kilo bags or tote bags of about one ton each. During packaging, peanuts are sampled for inspection and analysis and after being certified as meeting the USDA standards for human consumption, the peanuts are either shipped to the customer or stored in cold storage (35 to 40 degrees F and 60 to 65% relative humidity) until needed.
How has exporting your peanuts and other peanut products affected your growth?
According to Byron, exports have been key to the growth of their company and they believe that this will continue to be true. “Our location near the border is part of the story but we would like to believe that we offer a level of commitment and service to our customers that they have come to expect and appreciate.” Relationships are very important in the industry, and Byron adds, “it is not unusual to have some of our Mexican customers drop in the office while they have their families vacationing and shopping in the San Antonio area. Kurt and Joey have made a lot of trades over coffee at the tiny kitchen table in the tiny break room in our cramped, tiny office. (Yes, we have a new office building in the plans.)”
What are your most important export markets?
“Mexico is without doubt Wilco's most important export market,” says Byron, “we are also optimistic about the future of the Asian and Pacific markets because of our location near Union Pacific Railroad's Intermodal facility in San Antonio.”
Which products are most sought after by export markets?
“The most sought after products by our export customers are shelled, high oleic Runner type peanuts,” says Byron.
How has the American Peanut Council helped with your export growth?
The American Peanut Council (APC) has supported the development of the export market with trade missions and reverse trade missions which bring our customers to us, and has also been a great source of information for marketing peanuts throughout the world, and to our foreign customers about the benefits of purchasing USA peanuts.
APC has been an advocate for the U.S. peanut industry by working with American officials and their counterparts in other countries, to facilitate understanding and solve problems arising through misunderstandings, which has helped us on several occasions when we have had difficulties with importing authorities in our customers’ countries.
APC keeps us informed of changes in import requirements as they occur and often provide input to import authorities that can be used to develop import regulations which increase consumer protection and are practical to the industry.
Anything you would like to add about working with APC?
“Working with APC has been a great learning experience for me. I have met a lot of wonderful people and I am always impressed by the cooperation and unity the industry has displayed when faced with challenges. The staff at APC does a wonderful job of organizing and conducting the meetings and the information gleaned at the meetings is always pertinent and accurate. I think it was George I. Lovatt who told me that the way to learn was to never be the smartest guy in the room. At the APC functions, I have never had to worry that I might be the smartest guy in the room.”
For more information, contact:
Wilco Peanut Company
3391 U.S. 281 North (Physical)
P.O. Box B (Mailing)
Pleasanton, TX 78064
Pleasanton, TX 78064