The Story Behind New Orleans' Camellia Brand, the Oldest Dried Bean Company in the Country
When it comes to dried beans to make all your favorite beans recipes, we're partial to the oldest dried bean company in America, Camellia Brand, born and based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Now in its fourth generation of family leadership, Vince Hayward leads L.H. Hayward & Company, founded by his great-grandfather Lucius H. Hayward Jr., who created the brand behind the beloved beans in 1923. Hayward Jr. started out as a horse-and-buggy traveling salesman for the then-developing National Biscuit Company —now known as Nabisco — before opening a wholesale business selling dried beans and fresh produce on Front Street along the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
When Hayward Jr.'s son, Gordon, took on the family business, he created the Camellia Brand, and packaged the beans in cellophane bags, a new move for the beans' industry that helped catapult their beans into pantries across the South. As for the brand's namesake? That comes from Gordon's mother's favorite flower, the speckled variety of Camellias, which also happens to be the oldest type of Camellias in the South. In 1947, the brand name was trademarked, and in the following decades the beans went on to be a staple across the South and beyond.
"I grew up bitten by the bug of business. From the age of ten, I would be out mowing neighborhood lawns, selling snowballs and even working as a bartender," says Vince in a company press release, clearly revealing a knack for business in his bones from childhood. These days, he's all about celebrating the dish which his family helped make so popular: "Red beans and rice are tightly woven into the fabric of the southern United States,"he says, adding its omnipresence in New Orleans. "It's always been what's for dinner on Monday."
Beyond red beans, Camellia Brand makes a host of other dried beans from Great Northern beans to yellow split peas. You can shop their offerings on Amazon here.
It may not be Monday, but we know what we're having for dinner. Who else also has a hankering for red beans and rice?