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The Original Nutshell SmokeCage Corporation

American Made Since 2004

Richard A.F. Nelson

Greenville, Texas
SmokeCage® assemblies and the Flavor-Fuel™ nutshell products are a green-friendly smoke flavoring system which enhance outdoor grilling results.
Food, Agriculture & Sustainability

Tell us about your business.

I got started in 2003 after taking a plant (factory) tour of the Sunshine Nut Company in Selma, Texas. I was their outside sales broker for national accounts. The Plant Manager was explaining to me that they processed twenty million pounds of pecans each year, and did I know that half the weight of a pecan is the meat? I said, so what do you do with the other half (shells)? He said, we dispose of them. I said: you don't burn them to generate electricity and power the facility? He stopped on a dime and looked at me and said, "hey, that's a really good idea." I stopped talking . . . When done, I asked if he wouldn't mind if I took about fifty pounds of shells to mess with. He said I could have as much as I wanted. For eleven years I have diligently and patiently pursued the path of commercialization of the 600 million pounds of industrial nutshell co-product via an innovative grill accessory system. We want to be the go-to smoke flavor condiment solution for outdoor cooking.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

Home based business, with a 40' by 14' outdoor workshop situated in rural Cash, Texas. We collect, hand sift and package pecan shells, walnut shells, and pistachio shells into poly bags for retail offer and hand-stitch our bulk poly-weave bags for the commercial food establishments and competition barbecue teams. After sales reached a level I couldn't personally satisfy with my own fabrication, I out-sourced our production requirements of the SmokeCage® assemblies to a toll-manufacturer based in Garland, Texas rather than going off-shore. I feel the benefit of being a Made-in-Texas barbecue grilling accessory offers advantages which outweigh any profit benefit from off-shoring.

What inspires you?

When someone tells me that they love how their food tastes now that they're grilling with the SmokeCage® and pecan shells, I smile a great big smile. Then I stop and recall how it all began, and remember it came from listening carefully and a ton of hard work.

What makes your business stand out?

Our pioneering effort to innovate, re-purpose, brand and market co-products from several large industries makes us believe we are unique. Marketing and monetizing the offered benefits of renewable fuel sources that resolve the issue of nearly flavorless gas grilled foods, and enhance traditional methods of grilling across all grill styles with added smoke flavor (as a condiment) via our Patent-Pending, hand-made, affordable grill accessory surely must be seen as novel and worthy of consideration by the selection committee. We were nominated by the North Texas Region Small Business Development Center as one of eight finalists to compete in the fifth annual state-wide Texas Rural Challenge - Texas Strong competition this past May. That didn't hurt! No we didn't. We are very active with our local Farmer's Market as a selling vendor, and also volunteer on its Board to improve and promote the market offerings.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Adversity makes entrepreneurs creative, determined and focused toward finding the proper path to reach success. Listen to that inner voice, it knows what you need to do. Calm yourself and listen for it. Then act with vigor and keep moving forward no matter what. There are no inconsequential strangers by the way. Take it all in.

What does American Made mean to you?

American Made connotes a firm who pridefully commits to offering its customers a product/service which may be internally more costly, and less profitable, but offsets that by being rooted in the community it shares its space with. That turns into a customer loyalty which drives word of mouth referrals that low price imported products could never afford to achieve.

Comments (3)

  • TONSC 10 Aug, 2014

    The oak chips represented less than 1% of our gross sales. As such, we've taken the decision to discontinue offering them. Although unique, they were, at best, a marginal contribution and simply not worth the effort. So, this leaves us being able to claim 100% American Made, which is good.

  • foodjudges 5 Aug, 2014

    Hi Richard,

    Will you please share where your chips come from?

  • TONSC 9 Aug, 2014

    The oak chips are sourced from the barrel makers (cooper) of the Rioja region of Spain.

    The pecan shells are sourced from nut processors in Texas.

    The pistachio and walnut shells are sourced from nut processors in California.

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