April 2, 2023
It's rare to encounter a business that's been around for a century. But a 100-year-old firm that's still owned and operated by the same family? That's rarer still.

It’s rare to encounter a business that’s been around for a century.

But a 100-year-old firm that’s still owned and operated by the same family? That’s rarer still.


Four generations of family ownership and operations isn’t the only thing that makes Elgin-based nut company John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc., stand out, however.

It’s the mission to end hunger and food insecurity, not only in and around Elgin, but also at its branch facilities in Gustine, California, Bainbridge, Georgia, and Selma, Texas.

The company — noted for renowned brands like Fisher Nuts and Squirrel Brand, the oldest registered nut company in the United States — is a partner with Food for Greater Elgin food pantry, donating goods and actively encouraging its employees to volunteer, which many of the 900 employees in Elgin do.

Corporate philanthropy doesn’t stop there, according to Jeffrey Sanfilippo, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, and it’s not just food donations and volunteers.

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“One of the challenges for Food for Greater Elgin was they didn’t have a parking lot,” Sanfilippo said. “We donated funds to build a parking lot in September 2021, which has helped their clients immensely. Instead of having to park on the street, they have a much closer location, especially in winter.”

John B. Sanfilippo & Son (Nasdaq: JBSS), located at 1703 Randall Road, got its start in 1922, when Sicilian immigrant Gaspare Sanfilippo and son John B. opened their own pecan shelling business in a storefront on Chicago’s Division Street.

The business grew, thanks to innovations like an automatic pecan cracker that boosted product to shelling 150,000 pounds of product per year. In the late 1950s the company moved to Montrose Avenue on Chicago’s northwest side and changed its name to John B. Sanfilippo & Son.

In 1980 the company constructed a modern, 135,000-square-foot pecan processing facility in Elk Grove Village. It went public in 1991, and began acquiring other companies and brands, purchasing Fisher Nuts in 1995 from Procter & Gamble.



In 2007 the company built a new, 1.1 million-square-foot facility that today processes and packages nuts and operates as both a distribution center and its headquarters.

That’s a lot of history, but the part Jeffrey Sanfilippo enjoys talking about the most is his time as a youngster working in the family business along with his brother Jasper, the company’s chief operating officer.

“My parents and uncles were smart,” he said with a laugh. “They had us doing every job. They had us sweeping floors. It was unloading trucks, which was very labor intensive; bags were 100 or 110 pounds. It was great work ethic and appreciation for the people in the organization.”

But that was at the heart of the company’s family values back then, and that’s how it impacts business operations today, according to brand marketing manager Colleen Conrad.

“To me, this is more of an example of show, don’t tell … commitment to the community,” Conrad said. “In some ways this is a natural extension of our business. I see it only growing.”

Keep in mind, there’s more to John B. Sanfilippo and Son than corporate philanthropy. Back in the old days, innovation was an automatic pecan cracker. Today, it’s using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand current and emerging food trends by focusing on social conversations.

“There is data from these conversations happening on the internet … food, flavors, you name it,” Jeffrey Sanfilippo said. “We’re investing in companies who have all this data and gathering those insights.”

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