Sunday, September 2, 2012

Touring Bob's Red Mill with Bob Himself

I had a behind the scenes private tour of Bob's Red Mill last December, but this time I had a behind behind the scenes tour with Bob himself!

Bob's Red Mill
was a sponsor for this year's International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) that was held in Portland, Oregon in late August. The tour for bloggers was held pre-conference and I decided to go again because I wanted to meet Bob.

Bob Moore founded his original mill business in 1972 in Redding, California before moving the operation to Portland in the 80s. Now
Bob's Red Mill has about 400 products and grows about 20% per year, especially in the gluten-free side.

The bus of bloggers arrived to find Bob playing piano along with his Administrative Assistant. Bob later told us he was musically inclined and can also play the violin. He was in a cheerful mood and you could tell he loves his business tremendously. He also loves his employees. In 1980 he gave the company  to his employees as a way to protect them and the business from being bought and controlled by someone else after he is gone. Now they are all employee owners.

We started in his office which was packed with all sorts of product, memories, gifts, and more. He may be 84, but Bob loves to come into work each day.
We are all wearing hair nets for the tour.
the test kitchen
Bob with one of his first millstones.
After seeing the test kitchen, the mechanics/engineering building, and some of the packaging rooms, we also went into the labs.  

Bob explained that until now he's been able to test all incoming gluten-free product to ensure that they are, indeed, gluten-free. Starting in a month or so, he will start testing for genetically modification. Before he sent all that testing out to another lab. He's now bought all the lab equipment to do it in-house. We had quite a discussion about GMOs and there was one comment I found rather surprising. I had commented on our Prop 37 for GMO labeling of packaged foods in California. I mentioned that as much as 95% of packaged, processed foods have some GMO corn byproduct in them (corn syrup, starch, etc.)  Bob said he would rather have a person eat whole grain GMO grain than processed food, implying that any whole grain is better than processed, even if it is GMO.

A few of us left later and talked about it. Was he for or against genetic modification? Certainly he is concerned about having to label should CA pass the law, but could he really be feeling GMO is OK?

He said he will be keeping people informed on what they find out via the Bob's Red Mill blog. I will certainly be interested.

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