Bob Moore, the founder of longstanding whole grain food company Bob’s Red Mill, died peacefully at his home on Saturday, February 10. He was 94 years old.
Moore’s Milwaukie, Oregon-based company has become one of the most well-known whole grain food brands worldwide, with more than 200 products distributed in 70 countries. Moore was a leader in the stone-milled flour renaissance, opening his first mill in the 1970s — decades before its resurgence in the early aughts; the company was also an early adopter and producer of gluten-free flours and baking mixes, making them widely available to many for the first time. Later in life, Moore made headlines for turning over ownership of the company to his employees in the form of company stock.
“He did everything in his power to leave us on a strong path forward,” Bob’s Red Mill CEO Trey Winthrop said in a public statement announcing Moore’s death. “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.”
Moore was born in Portland, Oregon in 1929, moving as an infant to San Bernardino, California. He joined the army in 1947, building bridges and roads in the Marshall Islands during his years of service. He married his wife, Charlee, in 1953, and they soon became parents of three sons: Ken, Bob, Jr., and David. Charlee’s interest in nutrition and whole grain cooking inspired the family to rent a farm and begin baking their own bread. After reading John Goffe’s Mill, George Woodbury’s memoir about restoring his family’s water mill, Moore began voraciously researching the practice of stone milling.
At the time, stone milling had fallen out of favor, as metal roller mills proliferated the market. Think of a wheat grain as an egg: The bran is the shell, the germ is the yolk, and the endosperm is the white. The bran and germ retain most of the nutrients in a grain; however, the way roller mills process grain only separates out the endosperm from the germ and bran. Stone milling, on the other hand, grinds up the whole grain, retaining the germ and bran in the flour. Today, many celebrated flour brands — King Arthur, Camas Country, Cairnspring — rely on stone mills. So when Bob and Charlee opened Moores’ Flour Mill in Redding, California in 1974, they were keeping a culinary tradition alive, one that would continue to influence bakers around the country.
The Moore patriarch and matriarch left their stone mill to their children and moved to Oregon to attend seminary school. However, the two soon stumbled across an old feed mill for sale, and the couple opened Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods in the space in 1978, specializing in whole grains. Within the next five years, Bob’s Red Mill began to enter markets around the Northwest, most notably at Fred Meyer stores. In 1988, the mill burned to the ground, leaving only the millstones; the company reopened in 1989, focusing more seriously on its gluten-free product line. Bob’s Red Mill continued to grow, expanding nationally and, in 2000, internationally. Bob’s Red Mill now sells a huge variety of grain flours and pantry items, including sorghum flour, 10-grain pancake mix, and textured vegetable protein, to kitchens around the world.
In 2010, Moore celebrated his 81st birthday by transferring the company to his employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP. The list of employee-owned companies remains small in the United States, which Moore attributed to corporate greed. “Companies could do this, but because money is the only factor, and the owners and managers are generally looking out only for their own benefit, and what [the] company can do for them, I’m not so sure everyone cares to do that,” Moore told Fortune in 2022. “Come in, get as rich as you can, get out — that’s their main idea.”
Outside of his company, Moore was known for his love of cars and airplanes, as well as his philanthropic interest in preventative health and nutrition programs. The Moores helped fund Oregon State University’s Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition, and Preventive Health; the couple also helped found the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness at Oregon Health & Science University.
Moore retired in 2018, though he remained a Bob’s Red Mill board member until his death. He 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.