Monday, March 1, 2010

Still some Good Guys in Corporate America!

Although not what I call 'mainstream' Corporate America (the big guns like automakers and pharmaceuticals), Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods has impacted the corporate news recently in a very good way.

If you are not familiar with this company, it has an interesting history. Bob Moore, founder of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods was an engineer who fell in love with the old stone-grinding mills. About the time he retired, his wife began sharing what she was learning about the nutritional value of whole grains. By chance, a walk past a closed old mill site ignited his interest and soon his wife and sons joined him in their first mill operation (then located in California).

In my family genealogy research I have come across quite a few men who were millers in the 1800's. Those old mills were powered by a huge water wheel which turned the grinding stones to crush (mill) the kernels of wheat, corn or what ever grain they had. The advantage of stone milling is that there is no heat generated by friction, which can destroy the nutritional properties of the grain. Although I'm pretty sure Bob's Red Mill is not water powered, the stone-grinding would still preserve the nutritional values of the grain.

Today Bob's Red Mill operation occupies a 15 acre site in Milwaukee, and the company and reputation keeps growing. One portion of their business offers certified gluten-free products for people suffering from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies. They also produce over 50 different certified organic products, including Steel Cut Oats, Whole Wheat Flour, Cornmeal, and Flaxseed Meal.

Although I have only used Bob's Red Mill flours and not mixes, I have read several comments (both on baking blogs and from friends) praising their bread mixes. Most of them say you cannot tell it was a mix rather than made from scratch. Right now I have some of their graham flour (for homemade graham crackers) in the freezer... probably other flours too but I could not name them without doing an inventory.

Last week Bob Moore announced that he is giving his company to the employees even though he has had many purchase offers for the company. Details are still being worked out and Bob, who just turned 81, will remain at the helm. Preliminary plans show every one of the 209 employees with at least 3 years tenure will be fully vested in the Employee Stock Ownership Plan.

Bob declined to state the net value of the company but a business publication estimated 2009's sales at more than $24 million. Bob's company shows an annual growth rate at 20-30%. That doesn't surprise me, because I have found any of their products I have used to be of exceptional quality.

Currently, the company offers over 400 products of stone-ground flours, cereals and bread mixes.

BTW, an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) like Bob's Red Mill works as a retirement plan. The stock of a company goes into the plan and is held in trust for the benefit of the employees. The employees do not own the stock directly. If I remember correctly, that's basically what Lowe's (Lowe's Home Improvement, not Lowe's Foods) did quite a few years back, but with different parameters for vesting.

1 comment:

  1. I've been using quite a few of these products for several years and now consider them necessities. Excellent quality and taste. Going with an ESOP is most commendable. Yuska


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