On June 24, 1941, John A. Jones Sr. and several local businessmen formed Carolina Packers Incorporated. From the very beginning Carolina Packers created a much needed livestock market for Smithfield area farmers, many of whom became charter stockholders in the company.
The company was not only an asset to farmers, but to the overall economy. It was the first plant of its kind in all of North Carolina and provided much needed jobs in Johnston County. For the next 50 years Carolina Packers processed locally grown beef and pork into ham, bacon, country link sausage and their famous family of “Bright Leaf” hot dogs, bologna, red hots and smoked sausage.
Mr. Jones’ son, John A. “Buck” Jones, Jr., began working at the plant in 1956 after graduation from college and enlisting in the Air Force. In 1977, Buck Jones became president of Carolina Packers, Inc. “Buck” and his wife, the late Jean Lassiter Jones were the driving force behind the company and the Bright Leaf brand growth for the last 39 years.
One of the conservative business practices the Jones family took to heart was developing strong relationships with others, including employees. Around 1945, Mr. Jones, Sr. brought Vince Bode to work as the General Manager, a role that he held until 1977. Vince had a great understanding of how to successfully buy and sell meat and meat products. Hilton Byrd of Four Oaks succeeded Mr. Bode as General Manager of Carolina Packers in 1977 and worked until 2000. From 2005 to present, Kent Denning has served as the General Manager.
In 1997 slaughtering operations were discontinued to concentrate on the “Bright Leaf” product line.
“Our 75th Anniversary marks a major milestone for our company,” says Kent Denning, Carolina Packers President and General Manager. “On behalf of our Bright Leaf Family, it has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents of North Carolina. Our wonderful customers are the key to our success.”
Seventy-five years of hard work has paid off for the company. In February 2011, The National Provisioner magazine named the Carolina Packers Bright Leaf hot dog one of the top 20 most popular hot dogs in the United States. Articles about the iconic Bright Leaf have been written all over the country from Our State magazine to The Colorado Springs Gazette.
Carolina Packers Inc. has garnered several awards over the years, including receiving the inaugural Johnston County Industry Appreciation Award in 2014. The most recent recognition came from the Johnston County Farm-City Committee in 2015. The Committee recognized Carolina Packers for their significant contributions to agriculture and agribusiness in Johnston County. Carolina Packers is a member of the NC Meat Processors Association, NC Pork Council, North American Meat Institute and works closely with the NC Goodness Grows Program.
“We want to celebrate this milestone achievement with our customers,” says Denning, noting that the company will be doing product giveaways with local radio stations, including AM-1090 WTSB through October. “So listen to the radio and you might be a winner.”
“We appreciate the support of our longtime local customers, and we want newcomers to try our product and get a taste of a real Eastern NC tradition,” Denning added.
Carolina Packers has undergone many changes over the years, but the company has remained loyal to the traditions that have made the Bright Leaf brand a family favorite on the dinner table for 75 years. Like the famous Bright Leaf hot dog recipe, the company’s commitment to providing good tasting, wholesome products has not and will not change.