How a Third-Generation Entrepreneur Is Helping his Family’s Peanut Business Grow and Adapt for the Future

As a leader of his family’s business, the Hubbard Peanut Company (also known as Hubs), Marshall Rabil recently introduced a new product that not only supports a small farmer but delivers a unique product to the consumer. Hubs Single Origin Redskin Peanuts were sold exclusively on the Hubs website and quickly sold out.
As a third-generation food business entrepreneur, Marshall, who serves as the company’s Director of Sales and Marketing thrives on trying new things to keep his business and products relevant for the future. Ryan Lepicier, the National Peanut Board’s Chief Marketing Officer, talks with Marshall about entrepreneurship and innovation.
 “I’ve always had a sense of pride in what my grandparents built. My mother and her siblings continued the legacy and it’s an honor to do the same. One often wonders why they are born where they are, but working for this business truly gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me rooted in this community.” 
Ryan: Entrepreneurship has deep roots in your family going back to when your grandmother Dot started Hubs in 1954. She created the category of gourmet Virginia type peanuts and then figured out to sell them. Tell me a little about how it all got started.
My great grandfather had a peanut farm in Southampton County, Virginia. His daughter, Dot selected the largest peanuts she could find on his farm. Now, the variety is called Super Extra Large Virginia type. Prior to Dot, the USDA did not have this grade of peanuts available. Today, Hubs only uses the top one percent of the crop, and they are literally the largest peanuts grown anywhere in the world.
After skinning the peanuts by hand, she blanched them in hot water before tossing the peanuts in a frying pan with salt and oil. The method derived from the old-fashioned way of canning vegetables and was not the norm. Dry roasting peanuts in the oven was the standard, but Dot’s unique process, now coined blister-fried, led to crunchier, flavorful peanuts. At first, she would give them to friends for gifts during the holidays, but they quickly started asking her for more and Dot and HJ realized they had something special.
HJ began delivering Dot’s peanuts to local pharmacies, shops, and neighbors.  He would charge a dime for a bag of peanuts next to the nickel bag of Planters. Because they were twice as big and at least twice as good, he believed they commanded twice the price.  Soon, a mail-order business was born out of their home and Dot could not keep up with the demand. She outsourced the skinning to women in the community. HJ began working with local engineers to invent a continuous blancher and roaster that could withstand greater volume. Today, Hubs are still cooked in the Hubbard home using the same recipe that Dot coined over 67 years ago. We are proud that they created the specialty peanut category, which has become an iconic Virginia product.
Ryan: This year you introduced the Hubs Single Origin Redskin Peanuts, which are sourced from a single farm and harvested in a unique way harkening to the past. What inspired you to pursue the collaboration?
Prior to working for the family, I was involved with international education programs. We studied agriculture in Central America and East Africa.  I learned about single origin chocolate and coffee and saw how impactful those products were for the farmers and the communities that supported them.  For quite some time, I’ve wanted to launch a single origin peanut product, but the timing was not right until this past year when we started talking to Elisha Barnes. I knew Elisha was still “shocking” peanuts from the Virginia Peanut Story documentary that was released a couple of years ago and I knew he’d be the perfect farmer to release this product. Other projects were a priority, but the stars aligned and Elisha happened to reach out to us and I immediately jumped on board as a partner.  The launch was well received, and we sold out on our website in the first 24 hours.  We look forward to continuing this limited release as long as Elisha wants to plant peanuts. Ideally, some of our team will help with the harvest because it truly is a laborious process, but will connect us deeply to the peanuts. We look forward to working with Elisha this summer and using some of his vegetables at The Vine and providing him a space to showcase his squash, tomatoes, corn, and watermelon.

Ryan: As a premium product producer, I’m sure you’re always looking for unique ways to connect with consumers. Tell me how that led to your partnership with a prominent golfer.
Hubs has always been found in clubs and golf courses around the country. Dot Hubbard was an avid golfer, and our peanuts go very well with the game. Whether you need a quick energy boost at the turn, or want to enjoy peanuts on the 19th hole, it’s an ideal snack.
I’ve been working on ways to get Hubs into the PGA.  One Saturday last summer, I noticed that Mark Hubbard was on the first page of the leaderboard.  I followed him on Instagram and sent him a message about Hubs to see if he’d have any interest.  I’ve done that countless times with a variety of people, stores etc., but on Sunday, I had a message from Mark’s agent that he loved the idea and wanted to discuss it in more detail. His nickname happens to be “HUBBS” and he’d had our peanuts before.  We negotiated a deal to sponsor Mark and now he wears our logo on his left sleeve, and takes peanuts with him to all of the tour events.  We look forward to continuing the relationship and expanding our brand’s visibility to the golf community.
Forbes article:
Golf magazine:
Ryan: I know you rely on a mix of catalogue, online and retail sales. Recently you added The Hubs Vine as a second retail local. Talk about The Vine and how you see it as part of your business looking into the future. (I love the name, by the way.)
The Hubs Vine is the name of our new market off Highway 58 in Franklin, VA.  We needed to expand our footprint for shipping, warehousing and new production.  While investigating options of where to build, rent, or buy, Farm Fresh announced that they were closing all of their stores.  This was a bigger space than we needed, but we figured we could grow into it, and it was less expensive to buy an existing building than construct a new one. For the past year, we’ve been repurposing every department in the market to meet our needs. The checkout area and old Starbucks is our retail market that has a number of specialty products, great coffee, ice cream, and even games for people of all ages to enjoy.  We turned the meat department and beer cooler into our chocolate enrobing production line. We are excited to launch our own choco covered peanuts this fall. Because Farm Fresh left all of their equipment, we had a bakery and deli that we’ve been able to repurpose into our kitchen for the café. Now that we have a large space, it’s a wonderful venue for meetings, concerts, private dinners, wine tastings, and even wedding receptions. This expansion project has been a total team effort and we are blessed to have such an incredible group of people to work with to achieve our goals.
Ryan: What is the most rewarding aspect of being part of a family business?
I've always had a sense of pride in what my grandparents built. My mother and her siblings continued the legacy and it’s an honor to do the same. One often wonders why they are born where they are, but working for this business truly gives me a sense of purpose and keeps me rooted in this community. My grandparents were very philanthropic and instilled that value in our company and family.  We are excited to expand our social outreach as a company and be a part of the solution to the variety of local issues we face.  

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