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Home / Business / Bob's Red Mill became a gluten-free giant before his time: The Salt: NPR

Bob's Red Mill became a gluten-free giant before his time: The Salt: NPR



Bob Moore, founder of Bob's Red Mill and Natural Foods, inspects grains at the company's site in Milwaukie, Ore. The pioneering manufacturer of gluten-free products invests in whole grain cereals as well as in beans, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, spices and herbs.

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Bob Moore, founder of Bob's Red Mill and Natural Foods, inspects grains at the company's site in Milwaukie, Ore. The pioneering manufacturer of gluten-free products invests in whole grain cereals as well as in beans, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, spices and herbs.

Natalie Behring / Bloomberg on Getty Images

Bob Moore, 90-year-old founder of Bob's Red Mill, was only a few years working in the mill of whole-grain products in a converted animal feed mill in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, when he was visited by some Gluten-free Seattlites battling a business proposal: Use your business contacts to help them buy Xantham chewing gum, an ingredient used in gluten-free baking to improve the gluten's elasticity.

This was in the early 1980s. Moore had never heard of celiac disease – a severe autoimmune disease in which the consumption of protein gluten harms the small intestine – let alone a gluten-free diet. But he bought, sold half to the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and kept an eye on this potential market.

When an arsonist burnt down the original mill in 1988, Moore realized the new facility he moved into was larger and had separate rooms where gluten-free products were completely destroyed by the sticky bodies could be separated. This eventually allowed him to do more for people like the women of GIG who had talked to him for so many years.

Although evidence of celiac disease dates back to the 5th century a possible link between celiac disease and wheat was not established until 1930 . It took decades for gluten-free diets to develop into a widespread treatment for celiac sufferers. Until then, most celiac disease patients were treated with a diet consisting of up to 200 bananas a day, as Jill Neimark wrote for NPR.

Options for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity were limited until recently. "If you want to imagine what dry, dusty soil looks like, then is the gluten-free bread in the 90s," says Megan Orpwood Russel, a San Francisco writer who has been gluten-free since the 1990s, officially with celiac disease 12 years ago diagnosed. She regularly brought a supply of rice crackers and peanut butter as an emergency snack, as so few people understood what foods contained gluten. Most of the gluten-free products that existed at the time "tasted of garbage or nothing," says Orpwood Russel. It was not a market that most companies tried.

This makes it so surprising that Bob's Red Mill, then a relatively small wholegrain producer, did so. Today, the company sells more than 100 different gluten-free products targeting this market from the moment the plants are sown.

"If you want to get gluten-free, you just have to do that," says Moore. Farmers can not alternate the harvest of gluten-free millet with wheat or barley, and these crops can not be grown close enough to contaminate the gluten-free crops. You also need separate equipment for the harvest, from the harvesting machine to the storage tank.

"And we pay more for it," says Moore. "If you have these handling methods, you'll charge more, and that's fine, as long as you do not use people."

It has become big business. A complete wing of Bob & # 39; s Red Mill's 325,000-square-foot warehouse is currently destined for gluten-free foods. Food Safety and Quality Assurance Director Meghan Keeley says that in the early days of gluten-free foods, "we had so few items that they literally did it by hand" by taking a pipette with a sample and testing it separately for gluten [ Gluten-free products are sold at Bob's Red Mill and Natural Foods store in Milwaukie, Oregon.

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Gluten-free products are sold at Bob's Red Mill and Natural Foods store in Milwaukie, Ore.

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Machines are needed to support the process, and the gluten-free lab is in operation for 22 hours a day. The raw materials are tested on delivery, then again after grinding and at least once again in the final form. "Sometime during life, it can be tested up to four times," says Keeley. According to current Food and Drug Administration guidelines, products must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten to be labeled as gluten-free.

Keeley explains that a sample in raw form may not contain "few" rye berries "in the garbanzo chips from which garbanzo meal is made, the more homogeneous the mixes, the more likely the machine will recognize the gluten content The Red Mill seeks to maintain its reputation as one of the most trusted companies for people with severe gluten allergies, though many believe the gluten national standard should be closer to zero ppm. Fortunately, because Bob's Red Mill has such a large, non-gluten-free business that products that test a positive value for gluten beyond the legal amount will not be wasted. "We are moving it to the conventional line "Moore says," It just does not go in a pouch called gluten-free. "

Moore, who used to be lower than many Taking an unmet need for gluten-free body awareness seems to be impressed by the perseverance of supporters such as GIG, who were involved in founding today's large market for gluten-free foods. Unlike a company that makes a new product and advertises it to customers to convince them to buy it, the gluten-free food started almost like a grassroots campaign.

"We speak of grain," says Moore Most plants that can be ground to be grains in their own way. "I'm in the grain business, so it's only logical that I take care of it."

In the factory floor, the scent of coconut and almonds wrapped in sacks of celiac-friendly flour hangs sweetly in the air. The gluten-free world is far from the days of brittle breads that seemingly crumble to dust if left unattended. "I never tried to sell it," he says of his gluten-free products. "I offered it."

Tove K. Danovich is a journalist based in Portland, Ore .


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