Sponsored By

Bob Moore, natural foods pioneer and legend, dies at age 94

The founder of Bob’s Red Mill is remembered for joyfully leading a marching band parade around the Natural Products Expo West show floor. Read more.

Dawn Reiss

February 12, 2024

6 Min Read
Bob Moore leading Expo parade
Byran Beasley Photography

Bob Moore, the legendary founder of Bob’s Red Mill, inspired a generation of natural products founders to become innovators who do more.

Moore, who died on Feb. 10 at 94 years old, became a change maker, an influencer known for his joyful Bob’s Red Mill marching band parade filled with guitar-and-harmonica playing musicians at Natural Products Expo West.

Bob Moore leads his musicians in a parade at Natural Products Expo West in 2019.

“Bob looked forward to Expo West every year as a place where he could be surrounded by others who were as passionate about natural foods as he was,” said Cassidy Stockton, senior marketing communications manager at Bob’s Red Mill. “He loved meeting everyone at the show. He was larger than life throughout his nearly 95 years, as many of you who have attended Expo West might recall, leading a marching band around the booths to kick off Expo adorned in his cap and signature red vest.”

Many, like Sarah-Marie Cole, chief marketing officer at MyForest Foods, a farm-grown meatless mycelium company, said they looked forward to it every year.

“Bob brought so much joy to those moments,” said Carlotta Mast, senior vice president and market leader for New Hope Network.

bobs-red-mill-logo.png

With his trademark hat, white beard and glasses, Moore’s likeness on Bob’s Red Mill packaging made him a celebrity in his own right.

“Bob and his Bob's Red Mill helped to create the natural products industry,” Mast said. “Bob has been an industry celebrity at New Hope Network's Natural Products Expo events. I always looked forward to an opportunity to say hello to Bob.”

Many won’t forget his interaction with singer Katy Perry, who attend Natural Products Expo East 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. Perry waited patiently in line to meet the then 90-year-old Moore and have him sign a book, only to get asked “Who are you?” and “What do you do?” according to Page Six. After Perry shared she was a singer, Moore sweetly said “Well, good luck to you”  . . .  and then she left. The witness added, “It was hilarious.”

Moore’s industry impact was widespread.

“He inspired other people to try and do the right thing and do it well,” said Karen Frame, CEO and founder of Makeena, a cash back rewards app focused on organic, eco-friendly healthier products from socially responsible brands.

Bob Moore at Natural Products Expo West in 2015, when he was inducted into New Hope Network's Hall of Legends.

In 2015, Natural Products Expo West inducted Moore into the Hall of Legends, which honors the greatest contributors and influencers who have changed the natural products industry with enduring impact.

“Bob’s legacy will live on forever in all of us who had the opportunity to work with him and is infused into the Bob’s Red Mill brand,” Bob’s Red Mill CEO Trey Winthrop said in a released statement. “He did everything in his power to leave us on a strong path forward. All of us feel responsible and motivated to preserve his old-world approach to unprocessed foods; his commitment to pure, high-quality ingredients; and his generosity to employee owners and educational organizations focused on nutritional health.”

Bob and Charlee Moore created an Employee Stock Ownership Plan to reward their employees for their hard work. They also looked to inspire future generations through substantial financial contributions to Oregon universities.

Stockton recalled that Moore, an avid pianist, would often play on his lunch break at the Whole Grain Store in Milwaukie, Oregon. He also enjoyed driving his Model A Ford from the production facility to the store.

“He hoped those in the industry would believe as passionately as he did in the power of natural foods to lead to a long and happy life,” Stockton said. “Bob walked the talk, eating oatmeal every single morning.”

Bob Moore at different stages in his life.

A latecomer pioneer who had to start again

The whole grain pioneer loved healthy eating, but his success was based on starting over.

Moore was in his 50s when, on a whim, he picked up a library book, “John Goffe’s Mill” by George Woodbury, a true story about restoring his family’s ancient water-powered mill. It inspired Moore to purchase an old grain mill and start Bob’s Red Mill in 1978.

In 1988, when Moore was 60 years old and his company taking off, an arsonist burned Bob’s Red Mill. After some debate, he rebuilt again. He soon pioneered the gluten-free foods category, becoming an industry leader with a dedicated gluten-free manufacturing facility that incorporated strict safety protocols and innovative in-house laboratory.

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration invited Bob’s Red Mill to testify about its gluten-free manufacturing and product-labeling practices. That testimony led to the FDA’s ruling in 2013 that regulates gluten-free labeling to contain less than 20 parts per million, a practice already commonplace at Bob’s Red Mill.

"It's encouraging to see these important standards put into place, and we're celebrating with celiac sufferers and those with gluten sensitivities everywhere on this monumental milestone,” Moore said when the FDA’s history-making ruling was announced.

Moore also shocked much of the industry in 2010 when he created an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to give employees stock in the company and make it 100% employee owned in 2020. Moore and his wife, Charlee, always focused on people over profit, Stockton said. Charlee Moore died in 2018.

“As the company got more successful over the years, Bob found himself fending off one offer after another from large corporations that wanted to buy Bob’s Red Mill,” Stockton said. “Even though they knew it would be immensely profitable for themselves, Bob and Charlee didn’t want to go down that road and risk what could come from that for employees.”

After announcing the new ownership plan, Moore said, “Setting up an ESOP was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked with me for over 30 years, and each and every one of them deserves this.”

That’s served as an inspiration for many in the natural products industry.

“Bob built an incredible company and gave the ownership to his employees, which was a relatively new thing at the time, but he did it,” Frame said. “I find that to be super amazing. He was a kind, generous legend. His innovation always inspired me.”

Editor's note: Moore is survived by his three sons, Ken, Bob Jr., and David; daughters-in-law, Dora, Barbara, Ashleigh and Terry; nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A celebration of life is being planned. Details will be announced later.

About the Author(s)

Dawn Reiss

Dawn Reiss is a Chicago-based journalist who has written for TIME, The New York Times, The Atlantic, AFAR, Travel + Leisure, Civil Eats, Fortune.com, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, among others. Find her at www.dawnreiss.com.

Subscribe and receive the latest updates on trends, data, events and more.
Join 57,000+ members of the natural products community.

You May Also Like