Bob’s Red Mill: Preserving wholeness for a healthier world

By Arianne Pfoutz
Published: February 1, 2013

Category: Non-GMO Company Profiles

Bob's Red Mil

Bob Moore (sitting in car at right with his wife Charlee) and the employees of Bob’s Red Mill

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In this age of profit-driven buyouts, lucrative mergers, and an obsession with the bottom line, it’s something of a head turner to hear about a business owner/CEO giving away his company to his employees—on the grounds that they’re the ones best suited to run it.

It happened at Bob’s Red Mill on Bob Moore’s 81st birthday. The act spoke volumes about how Bob and his wife Charlee, with a cadre of dedicated, long-term colleagues, built this whole grain company into a booming success, giving Bob enough confidence in his employees to bequeath his company to them.

The story begins in the early 1970s, when Bob read a book on the ancient Roman art of grinding flour on stone. He located some millstones (quartz), found an old mill in Redding, California, and began to mill. In 1978, he moved to Oregon City, bought another mill, and began providing local flours and cereals. When a fire destroyed the mill in 1988, Bob was 60, and had a decision to make—call it quits, or rebuild?

“I entertained the idea of not continuing….but the wife of one of my employees looked at the burned building and said, ‘So [my husband] doesn’t have a job now, does he?’ To me, an entrepreneur is a person who assumes responsibility. We found another location right away.”

Bob’s Red Mill now occupies a 320,000 square-foot facility on 17 acres in Milwaukie, Oregon, where three mill rooms operate 24/7, and a 160,000 square foot distribution center with 40 loading docks which produces and delivers thousands of products each day. The company just leased another 35,000 square-foot building to accommodate expansion.

Bob’s sells over 400 whole grain flours, baking mixes and cereals; 30% are organic and all are non-GMO. Thousands of tourists visit the Whole Grain Store and Visitor Center, complete with restaurant and bakery, each year.

Whole grain means ALL of it

The Moores have been “whole”some eaters for some time. “My wife got us eating whole grains back in the 50s,” said Bob. “I was drawn to the stone mills because they keep the nutritive parts of the grain intact. In the 1870s and 1880s, industry found a way to take out the bran and germ of the grain, saying ‘we don’t digest it anyway.’ And then over the past 120 years subtle things began to happen to the health of our nation. Laxative products became popular because people weren’t getting enough fiber. I consider it almost a crime to strip food of its whole, natural state. These foods are simple and perfect just as they are.”

Some of the company’s most popular products are steel cut oats, flaxseed meal, and 10-grain baking mix. Alternatives to wheat, corn, and oats are also popular, such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, and sorghum. New grain trends include almond meal, coconut flour, xanthan gum, chia seeds, and whole wheat pearl couscous.

Over 50 products are gluten-free, produced in a dedicated gluten-free building with a complete testing center. Over one quarter of a million dollars has been spent setting up testing sites. Eurofins and Congen were helpful in educating the company on GMO testing protocols. “Testing in-house is the only way to be sure,” said Bob.

Leading with conviction

Behind an impressive 30% growth each year for the last 10 years is a corporate atmosphere shaped by Bob’s own leadership skills. “Bob sets the morale here,” said Neil Coverstine, director of purchasing. “He’s good at recognizing talent in an employee and lets them run with it.”

“The secret I think is to find something you believe in and do that,” Bob said. “If you can demonstrate the value of what you make or sell—even if it’s tires—you’ll be successful. I found the whole grain niche and I believe in it.”

Bob holds significant trust in his 285 employees, handing them the future of Bob’s Red Mill. As he told ABC News commentator Diane Sawyer, “There’s nobody worthy to run this company but the people who built it. I couldn’t sell it. The prevailing philosophy these days is ‘get all the money you can.’ Instead, I tried to DO the best thing I could.”

Promoting Nutrition for a Better World

In 2011 Bob and Charlee gifted $25 million to Oregon Health and Science University to establish The Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness, which focuses on nutrition for women before and during pregnancy. They donated $1.35 million to the National College of Natural Medicine to establish a research and teaching kitchen—“Charlee’s Kitchen”—to support the Ending Childhood Obesity Project. In 2010, $5 million went to establish The Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health through Oregon State University’s College of Health & Human Sciences—for research and outreach programs.

A former seminary student, Bob found validation for his mission on the Bible’s first page, which reads, “I have given you every herb bearing seed. . . and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed.” “It’s a description of whole grains,” said Bob.

Those seeds will now be passed on to others, in fulfillment of Bob’s goal: To leave the world a better place.


© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 2013