Keep the peanut legacy intact

Published 7:45 pm Friday, February 12, 2021

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Most folks in Suffolk learned the news on Thursday that Hormel has bought Kraft Heinz Company’s nuts business, including most products sold under the Planters brand and the Planters production facilities, including the one in Suffolk.

We sincerely hope that the good work Planters does in Suffolk will continue for many years to come under this new ownership.

Amedeo Obici immigrated from Oderzo, Italy, to America at age 11. He started a new life in Scranton, Pa., where he worked at a fruit stand among various other odd jobs. He eventually began roasting peanuts and peddling them by horse and wagon. He founded Planters Nut and Chocolate Company with his friend Mario Peruzzi, and the manufacturing side of Planters moved to Suffolk in 1913 to be closer to the area where peanuts came from.

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In 1916, Mr. Peanut was born in Suffolk when a boy from Hall Place, Antonio Gentile, drew an anthropomorphized peanut with legs, arms and a face doing different activities. A commercial artist dressed him up with a monocle, top hat and cane, and Mr. Peanut has been the face of Planters ever since.

Well, almost. Plenty of folks here in Suffolk mourned last year when Kraft Heinz killed off the popular peanut for the sake of a Super Bowl commercial. However, Mr. Peanut was reincarnated as Baby Nut in a spot that aired later in the game, and he has grown since then to … basically become Mr. Peanut again.

The Obici name is ingrained in Suffolk, as many people remember him not only as a businessman but also as a philanthropist. He gave his wife’s name to the hospital built in her memory, and the Obici Healthcare Foundation also came to be partially from the couple’s generosity.

Planters and all that comes with it are a big part of the history, business community and culture here in Suffolk. We hope Hormel realizes that and is prepared to embrace it without unnecessary changes.