Sep 30, 2011 • By

Peanuts were his passion

Long before the days of vending machines, if you liked peanuts you needed someone like Tom Huston to sell them to you.

The photos we pulled from the General Mills Archives for this post tell the story of an entrepreneur who built a snack business that we eventually owned.

You could say that Huston was truly passionate about peanuts.

He invented his own peanut roasting process. And a peanut shelling machine that he sold to farmers for, literally, peanuts. He even enlisted the help of arguably the most famous American linked to peanuts in the history books.

Huston started selling his roasted peanuts for a nickel a bag in Columbus, Ga. in 1925. As the business took off, he was interested in improving his peanut crop so he turned to George Washington Carver at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.

That expert guidance helped The Tom Huston Peanut Company expand quickly to sell peanuts through a network of distributors, driving trucks like this, around the United States.

Unfortunately for Huston, his effort to create a frozen peaches business at the same time led to a foreclosure on his peanut business in 1933. But an investment group took it over, and it continued to grow. It expanded beyond peanuts into a variety of snack foods and baked goods.

General Mills bought the company in 1966 and changed the name to Tom’s Foods. We sold it to a British company in 1983.

Editor’s note: Have a question about General Mills’ history? Send our Archives team an email.