Bob Moore and Ken Koopman

Bob Moore and Ken Koopman

New book reveals philosophy of Bob's Red Mill founder

Bob Moore, the founder and CEO of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, Inc., has been in the natural foods industry for decades. Recently, newhope360 had a chance to speak with Moore and Ken Koopman, the author of his new biography, People Before Profit, about Moore's life, the company and the book.

In 2011, Bob and his wife, Charlee Moore pledged $25 million to Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) to start the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness, aimed at halting childhood obesity and chronic nutrition-related disease.

Avid philanthropists, they also gave $5 million to establish the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health at Oregon State University, an academic center that’s building on the college’s research on nutrition, childhood obesity and related topics, and helping promote healthy eating throughout Oregon and beyond.

Plus, they donated $1.35 million to the National College of Natural Medicine to fund the ECO Project (“Ending Childhood Obesity”), an ongoing series of free family-oriented nutritional health education and cooking workshops that provide families with the tools and know-how they need to make healthier food choices.

Bob’s Red Mill will be celebrating the launch of People Before Profit at Natural Products Expo West. Moore will be signing complimentary copies of the book for any show attendee on Sat., March 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bob’s Red Mill booth (#2646).

newhope360: Were you into health food before you read the book on old-stone grinding, or did that ignite your passion?

Bob Moore: Yes I was. My wife was the instigator in this whole business. I don’t think I ever would have done what I’ve done if it hadn’t been for her interest (in healthy eating) with our three boys. My wife was making us wonderful whole-grain breads and feeding us hot cereals in the morning, many, many years before I got into this business. When I first picked the book up in the library in the 50s, it was still fairly new, and the whole concept of inheriting an old mill and not having any knowledge of one, and yet putting it together and finding out that people would beat a path to your door and buy your whole-flour and your cornmeal, it was a revelation.

newhope360: Did the company take off right away, or did it have a rocky start?

BM: Well after we moved on from our first mill, we moved to Portland. And within a few months of moving to Portland, I was walking down a particular street, and believe or not, there was an old mill, which had been abandoned. When I saw that old mill, I just had to do something with it. That was in 1978. A few years later, we made our first trip down to Anaheim to the (Natural Products Expo West) trade show. Really, before that we were just a regional company, but the people there recognized the value of the whole grains and stone mills, and that’s where it really took off. This year we’re going to have 9 booths there.

newhope360: Have you seen any changes in your employees since you decided to do the Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP)?

BM: We have about, 240 employees, and gradually over about 8 years, these people will become the owners of this company. Each year we give stock to them at no charge to them, which is the function of the ESOP. I think it’s just wonderful, and our employees, although they were wonderful before that, certainly have a different kind of enthusiasm when they look at their stock certificates and know they are part owners of this company. You know, there’s 11,000 ESOP’s in the United States, and I encourage other companies to look into this program.

newhope360: What made you decide to write the biography?

Ken Koopman, principal of Ostbo Marketing Communications : Well we were amazed when we wrote the press release saying that there was an ESOP and Bob’s employees would become owners of the company. The very first day after we sent out the press release, we got a call from Diane Sawyer’s producer of World News Tonight on ABC, and they sent out a crew to come over here and do a story on this announcement and this ESOP. Well that was just the start.

Over the next several months, I think about every major newspaper and news magazine did a story on this. Like we said, there are 11,000 ESOP’s, but why this one? I think it was just the right timing, right in the middle of the recession. We like to say it became the "feel-good story of the recession." And my business partner kept saying, "you know, Ken, someone should write a book about this guy [Moore]."

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