Aroma advertising drives customers hog wild for Conecuh Sausage, and locals almost squeal with delight when the savory scent helps travelers along I-65 identify the company’s home county.
With the hickory smoke tempting taste buds and mouth-watering flavor from the late Henry Sessions’ original recipe drawing customers back for more, it’s easy to see why Conecuh Sausage Co. can hardly keep up with demand.
“Without question, it’s the best sausage there is,” said Conecuh County Farmers Federation Vice President John Cook, adding that it’s brought a lot of recognition to the county.
“A lot of people don’t know how to pronounce the name of our county, but maybe they’ve seen it on a package of Conecuh Sausage,” Cook said. “Once they find out where I’m from, they always say it’s the best sausage they’ve ever had.”
Thanks to marketing agreements with retail chains like Piggly Wiggly, Walmart and Target, Conecuh Sausage is now available in 21 states, and every link is still made in Conecuh County, where the Sessions family started its business almost 70 years ago.
“After my dad came home from World War II, he was a salesman at a meat packing plant in Montgomery,” said owner John Crum Sessions, 62. “He started Conecuh Quick Freeze in downtown Evergreen in 1947 as a custom slaughter facility. Local residents brought hogs and cattle to be butchered. He expanded the business by renting locker space to local families so they could store meats and vegetables. Back then, families didn’t have their own freezers.”
It was Sessions’ high-quality smoked sausage, however, that put the company — and county — on the map. The family soon was butchering 250 hogs a week to satisfy cravings for its pork products. But as Alabama’s hog farms declined in the late 1960s, so did the local and regional supply of pork.
The Sessions family had to seek another supply and now gets its pork shoulders and bacon trimmings from Iowa.
The business, which has 100 employees, moved to its current location at Exit 96 in 1986, and a 42,000-square-foot expansion tripled the plant size in 2012.
Today, the company produces 30,000-40,000 pounds of sausage a day at the facility, which was originally designed for manufacturing and shipping. But as the hickory-smoke aroma wafted across I-65, a main corridor to Alabama and northwest Florida beaches, motorists were drawn to the plant. They wanted to buy sausage, Sessions said. That led to construction of the company’s retail store and gift shop.
“We sure never planned the gift shop, but we didn’t want to turn away customers,” he said. “But this sausage is so good, once you smell it and taste it, it sells itself.”
The product line at Conecuh Sausage Co. has expanded along with its popularity. Hickory Smoked Sausage is the best seller, but other favorites include Original Conecuh Sausage, Original Hot and Spicy Sausage, Hot and Spicy Hickory Smoked Sausage, Cajun Smoked Sausage and the latest addition, All-Natural Hickory Smoked Sausage, which is gluten-free and contains no nitrates or MSG. The company also offers smoked turkey, bacon, hams and holiday gift baskets. Shaker seasonings for steaks, hamburgers, pork, poultry and wild game round out the company’s product line.
Sessions, who runs the business alongside son, John Henry, 37, said the company has adapted to meet the changing demands of customers and the food industry.
“The one thing that hasn’t changed is our original recipe,” he said. “It’s the same one my daddy used when he started this business.”
Back then, most customers bought sausage to eat with eggs, grits and biscuits. Today, however, Conecuh Sausage can be found on backyard grills and menus of five-star restaurants.
“For many years our typical customer mostly ate sausage for breakfast,” Sessions said. “Now I’d say most of our business comes from customers who like our sausage grilled and served as a main course or appetizer.”
Sessions’s wife, Sheliah, said she’s prepared Conecuh Sausage in just about every way imaginable, but her husband’s favorite is Hickory Smoked with pork and beans.
The Sessions, who have a 250-cow beef cattle herd near Evergreen and a 250-acre row crop farm in southern Illinois, say they’re honored so many recognized their home county by their famous sausage.
“It’s sort of nice when we travel and people ask us where we’re from,” Sessions said. “When we tell them we’re from Conecuh County, Alabama, they say ‘Oh! That’s where the sausage is made.’ That makes me sort of proud. I like the fact that it helps bring recognition to our county.”