Bob Moore, the founder of beloved whole grain brand Bob’s Red Mill, passed away on February 10, 2024 at the age of 94. Born in Portland, Oregon in 1929, Moore grew up during the Great Depression but went on to found a company that revolutionized natural foods and brought whole grains to mainstream consumers. Along the way, Moore made the unconventional decision to gift ownership of his flourishing company to his employees.
Moore’s Early Life and Entrepreneurial Drive
After serving in the Coast Guard at the tail end of World War II, Moore settled in California where he worked a variety of jobs including as a chauffeur and a welder. He married his wife Charlee in 1952 and they started a family together.
Moore had always harbored an entrepreneurial spirit. In the late 1950s, he purchased a service station and tow truck company in Redding, California. Moore was driven to build a business where he could control his own destiny. The service station allowed Moore to be his own boss and set the stage for bigger ventures to come.
Searching for better opportunities, Moore moved his family north to a farm in Sacramento in the 1960s. Farming proved difficult, so the resourceful Moore shifted gears and purchased a small stone flour mill. Though lacking experience in milling, Moore had a passion for nutrition and saw a need for healthier flour alternatives.
Founding Bob’s Red Mill and Championing Whole Grains
In the early 1970s, Moore relocated again with his family to run a mill in Redding, California. However, Moore dreamed of starting a business from the ground up based on his growing love of whole grain flours and baking.
In 1978 at age 49, Moore and his wife Charlee took a chance and founded Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, Oregon. They started small, selling stone-ground flours and cereals at their own retail store. Moore was a pioneer, evangelizing the health benefits of whole grains at a time when refined white flour dominated.
Through passion and perseverance, the Moores built their humble company into a thriving natural foods enterprise. They diversified into other wholesome products like beans, grains and baking mixes. Bob’s Red Mill became known for its commitment to quality ingredients and old-world milling techniques.
By the 1990s and 2000s, Bob’s Red Mill was supplying major grocery chains and expanding globally. The company reflected Moore’s values of nutrition and authenticity that were ahead of their time. Bob and Charlee traveled the world searching for the purest ingredients and established the company as a leader in whole grain health.
Moore’s Motivations for Gifting His Company to Employees
As Bob’s Red Mill found immense success, other companies looked to purchase the trusted brand. However, fiercely independent Moore refused all offers to be bought out.
Instead, Moore decided to gift ownership of the company to his employees. On his 81st birthday in 2010, Moore shocked many by announcing the formation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). The ESOP transferred ownership of Bob’s Red Mill from the Moores to their employees.
For Moore, handing over the company to employees ensured Bob’s Red Mill would remain independent and continue his legacy. Moore felt a duty to share the prosperity. In interviews, he cited fairness and generosity as reasons he gave up ownership.
Moore was proud of his employees for helping build the company into a $100 million dollar business. The ESOP allowed employees to reap the rewards of that growth. It gave every worker a real stake and voice in the company’s future.
Bob’s Red Mill After the ESOP and Moore’s Later Years
The employee buyout allowed Bob’s Red Mill to escape acquisition and become uniquely owned by its workers. Moore remained involved as a board member in later years.
Over 700 employees now have an ownership share in the company, which continues to see double-digit annual growth. Bob’s Red Mill has maintained its identity with whole grains while expanding globally and adding new products.
Moore also gave back in retirement through substantial donations to colleges. He and Charlee funded nutrition and whole grains programs at Oregon universities. Even into his 90s, Moore remained passionate about educating people on the health benefits of whole grains.
After Charlee passed away in 2018, Bob focused on spending time with family and engaging with the community. He died peacefully at home at age 94 on February 10, 2024. Moore is remembered as a visionary who transformed attitudes about nutrition and built a values-driven company that will live on through its employees.
Moore’s Legacy As a Whole Grain Pioneer Who Shared Prosperity
Bob Moore was a self-made entrepreneur guided by a desire to provide wholesome, unprocessed foods. He educated the public on nutrition when whole grains seemed like a relic. Moore charted his own path instead of selling out, driven by care for his products and employees.
While founders often squeeze profits or cash out through mergers, Moore chose employee ownership. He gifted his life’s work, and by doing so crafted a legacy where employees are partners sharing in the company’s purpose and growth. That benevolent decision encapsulates Moore’s unique status as a mission-driven founder.
Bob’s Red Mill remains a beloved brand precisely because it has stayed authentic to Moore’s original whole grain crusade. The employees he entrusted with its future have preserved Moore’s values. Thanks to his foresight, Bob’s Red Mill continues to nourish people around the world just as its humble founder had envisioned.