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Q & A with Bob’s Red Mill

Matthew Cox is Vice President of Marketing at Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods.

GN: How did Bob’s Red Mill get started? What sets it apart from competitors and makes it unique?

MC: Bob’s journey began in the 1960s after he came across a book about old stone-grinding flour mills, John Goffe’s Mill. This spurred an immediate interest in stone milling. Luckily, he was able to find several sets of millstones from an old North Carolina water-powered flour mill, which helped him and his wife, Charlee, to start their first mill in Redding, Calif.

In 1978 after Bob and Charlee sold their successful Redding, Calif., milling business to their sons, they moved to Oregon City, Ore., to retire. By chance, they stumbled across an abandoned mill in a small town nearby, which got them excited about milling again. In just a few short months, Bob purchased that mill and was able to source old milling equipment that could stone grind flours and cereals for local customers. Bob’s Red Mill was born.

Starting back then and even today, Bob’s Red Mill is built on three principles: trust, honesty and integrity. The company is dedicated to manufacturing natural foods in a natural way, with as little processing as possible and accomplishes this using old-world technology. Centuries before high-speed steel roller mills were introduced, stone grinding was the method used – and it is still utilized today by Bob’s Red Mill. This allows the company to provide natural, nutritious products, that have had nothing added and nothing removed, helping to maintain the whole grain and seed’s inherent nutritional value. The company guarantees quality, every step of the way, and takes great pride in handling all aspects of the production process in-house, starting with processing, washing and inspecting the grain, and ending with the finished quality product shipped to your local retailer. Each product undergoes extensive quality control tests in its in-house laboratories, and its gluten free offerings are segregated from other products and tested in its special gluten free-only ‘clean room facilities.’ The packaging is a great example of its commitment – its clear bags enable consumers see the high quality of each of its products.

GN: What led to the expansion of current production and the new distribution center plans?

MC:The move was driven by the need for additional raw commodity storage space and anticipated production growth over the next five years, as well as to meet the increasing worldwide customer demand.

GN: You are a leader in gluten-free foods. Why is that so crucial to the Bob’s Red Mill company profile?

MC: Even before gluten free was a trend, Bob’s Red Mill was a leader in providing all natural, tested, safe and delicious gluten free foods for more than three decades. Back in the 1980’s shortly after the company started, Bob saw a need for safe, gluten free foods for the gluten intolerant community, and felt a dedication to offer them safe, nourishing, gluten free whole grain foods. So, he began producing gluten free products. The company learned through the years that it takes passion and dedication to make sure its gluten free products are actually gluten free, which has led it to its stringent practices today. All of its gluten free products are made in a dedicated 100 percent gluten free facility, and all gluten free ingredients are batch tested in the company’s quality control laboratory with an R5 ELISA Gluten Assay test. Finished products are also batch tested a final time after packaging to ensure the absence of gluten.

GN: There are a lot more gluten-free purveyors out than when Bob’s got started in 1978. How has the company changed since then and does the proliferation of gluten-free in the public eye help or hurt business?

MC: Since we began offering gluten free products in the mid-80s, our gluten free line has grown to include more than 80 products, including gluten free grains, flours, cake mixes, brownie mix, cookie mixes, pancake mix, pizza crust mix and various bread mixes. Because we have been such a trusted leader in this category, we have seen demand for our gluten free products grow dramatically as more and more people turn to gluten-free diets either for health reasons or personal choice. Much of our growth in recent years can be attributed to the increased demand for safe and delicious gluten free foods.

GN: What can we expect in 2014 from Bob’s Red Mill with this expanded production?

MC: The company has experienced tremendous growth in recent years as more and more people – both gluten free dieters and not – have gone looking for healthy whole grain foods. We certainly expect that trend to continue, and in 2014 our approach will not change. We will continue to provide our customers with an ever-widening array of whole grain and gluten free foods, while also delivering on our commitment to demonstrate to consumers new, easy and delicious ways to enjoy them. A good example is the recent introduction of our Grains of Discovery line of nine ancient grains and seeds – our customers have really responded positively to that. We’ve also just released a Gluten Free Pie Crust Mix. It’s the first of its kind and something our customers have really been clamoring for, so retailers are looking for that to be very popular. We, of course, have a lot more in the works that we will be sharing in the appropriate timeframes.

GN: Anything else you think our readers would like to know about Bob’s Red Mill.

MC: We really want to thank our retail partners for all the support they have given us over the years – we wouldn’t be where we are today without that support. We also encourage our customers to reach out to us about best practices we’ve learned for merchandising our products. For instance, customers who group our products together in a set have seen dramatic increases in sales, so that’s something we are encouraging wherever possible. We really see our customers as partners and are always happy to chat about these types of ideas or to answer any questions they may have. And they are always welcome to come for a visit and a tour of the Mill!