San Saba Pecan LP: Nuts for Processing Premium Pecans

San Saba Pecan LP (San Saba) supplies only the finest processed pecans to domestic and international customers alike. San Saba has provided shelled pecan products that set the quality standard for over 40 years, making the company an industry leader in pecan production.

Buddy Adams, CEO of San Saba, founded the company in 1972 in the heart of central Texas, or what’s known as the pecan capital of the world. The company, named after the city in which it is located, is now one of the largest of its kind, producing approximately 18 million pounds of halves and pieces of the gourmet nut, which has delicious applications in appetizers, soups, salads, baked goods and desserts.

“When I started San Saba, I was involved in my father-in-law’s business [RB Bagley and Sons],” recalls Adams. “At that time, he was the largest accumulator of [in-shell] pecans in the U.S. I partnered with him, buying pecans throughout the U.S. for a few years.”

In 2003 San Saba was reorganized under new ownership, allowing the vertically integrated company to add thousands of acres of pecans to its existing orchards.

“The Chase family, out of Artesia, N.M., plus San Saba’s existing orchards makes it the largest pecan growers in the U.S.,” reveals Adams. “We have orchards in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Producing our own high-quality pecans enables us to have full control over quality.”

Exceeding Industry Standards

The company’s multiple producing locations, which employ 300 individuals combined, allow San Saba to consistently meet and exceed the most exacting industry and individual standards for a variety of customers.
“The Texas, New Mexico and Arizona region produces the largest amount of pecans in the U.S.,” says Don Lindquist, executive coordinator at San Saba. “We distribute to some big-name ice cream makers and bakeries. We’re pretty diverse in our products and our customer base.” This wide diversity of clients includes not only dairies and bakeries, but also cereal manufacturers, confectioneries, food service and retail customers.

Recently, the company has added to its gourmet product line-up by purchasing Tracey-Luckey Inc. (dba Lucky Lady Pecans, Gifts & More), a reputable pecan sheller headquartered in Harlem, Ga. “Tracey-Luckey was one of the largest pecan shelling companies through the mid-1950s to early 1990s,” explains Adams. “They’re very well-known throughout the industry.”

Tracey-Luckey specializes in a variety of value-added products, consisting of praline, chili-coated, candy-coated and oil-roasted pecans, as well as buttered pecans. “We’ve increased the amount of value-added products by including Tracey-Luckey in our company,” adds Lindquist.

Competing Overseas

Beyond satisfying multiple delicious taste profiles, San Saba’s pecans are nutritional powerhouses. The pecans contain protein, carbohydrates, calcium, iron, vitamin A, ascorbic acid, phosphorous, potassium, riboflavin and niacin. The pecans rank top amongst all nuts in antioxidant capacity, and also have polyunsaturated fats (the good fats). On top of all that, raw pecans are one of the very few snack items that are healthy based on recent studies.

“In the past year, the American Heart Association [AHA] announced that raw pecans were a certified heart-healthy snack,” reveals Lindquist. “This has helped with our sales.”

San Saba has seen an increase in business from the AHA’s pecan publicity, but the company’s success hasn’t come without a few challenges.

A drought throughout the nation has also slowed production at some of San Saba’s orchards, and in the past decade San Saba has seen an increase in international competition, especially within Asian markets. However, Lindquist views this as more of an opportunity rather than a challenge.

“China entered the market within the last eight years,” explains Lindquist. “They sort of reinvented the market. We’ve never had to deal with that type of consumption before. We’re still learning their buying patterns.”

San Saba is always looking to be the best at what the team does, and maintain the high level of quality customers have learned to expect. “We’re always looking around the corner,” admits Lindquist. “When you’re a food processor, you’re always concerned about food safety. We’ve not only invested in our plants, but also in our safety programs. By becoming SQF 2000-certified [Safe Quality Foods certification] we’ve made sure the facilities in which we produce and the documentation that we expect from our team members keeps us on top of our game. This is most important in our eyes.”

San Saba’s team has worked to further the company’s well-respected reputation over the past 40 years. “Our brand is synonymous with quality,” stresses Lindquist. “I’m fairly new to this company, but I immediately realized that we bring a superior product to the table.” San Saba Pecan LP continues to lead the way, exceeding industry standards and competing on an international scale.