Alumnus’s gourmet peanut business helped him finish school. Now he’s helping others | Mercer Made

A tin of peanuts that says "Bear Food" on it
Mac Brydon started Bear Food, his gourmet peanut company, while a student at Mercer University.

Mac Brydon grew up putting labels on peanut tins. 

Every Christmas, his mom would sell gourmet Virginia peanuts to make some extra cash.  

“The more peanuts she sold, the better our Christmas was,” Brydon said.  

Today, the 2019 Mercer University alumnus runs his own gourmet peanut business. Bear Food is based in Matthews, North Carolina, and is available in 65 to 75 stores nationwide and online. 

Mac Brydon

Brydon started the company while he was still a student studying entrepreneurship in the Stetson-Hatcher School of Business. He came to Mercer to play basketball, but after two years, he knew it wasn’t for him.  

He wanted to stay at the University but needed to figure out a way to pay tuition. So, he decided to take a risk. 

“I knew I could probably sell my mom’s peanuts and at least pay for school,” he said.  

The summer before Brydon’s junior year, he came up with a business plan. Later that year, Bear Food  was named a company-in-residence at the Mercer Innovation Center, receiving office space and interns.  

“I had a lot of great teachers at Mercer that pushed me through this entire thing,” he said. “So many people were like, ‘Hey, we’re here if you need us.’” 

Bear Food currently offers seven peanut flavors — double dipped chocolate, dill pickle, jalapeno, lightly salted, Cajun spiced, peanut brittle and toasted — plus a high-end bar mix called “Bear Mix.”  

In addition to selling peanuts, Brydon — inspired by his brother Miller, who has Down syndrome — wanted to help the special needs community.  

While most states provide much support for children with special needs, a lot of that ends once they turn 21, Brydon said. He wanted to help them continue to grow.  

“I wanted them to be a part of the company,” he said. 

Special needs adults, including Brydon’s brother, are involved in helping label tins and pack boxes. Brydon also has given a web seminar to them about what it means to work at a job.  

“They want to be treated normal,” Brydon said. “They want to be a part of things and have pride in what they’re doing.” 

Mercer Made is a series in which we feature notable people, businesses, products and inventions connected to Mercer University.


Do you have a story idea or viewpoint you'd like to share with The Den?
Get in touch with us by emailing or submitting this online form.