Loadin' up the Y2K lardergreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Loadin' up the Y2K larder
The fear of Y2K already has consumers rushing to places like Bob's Red Mill . . . just in case there's a sudden food shortage.
Michael Rose Business Journal Staff Writer
The factory outlet store at Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods Inc. is a bustling place these days, thanks in part to the fact that fear of the Y2K computer crisis is causing many people to prepare for the end of the world as we know it.
Bob's Red Mill has grown into a thriving operation with 75 employees by making stone ground flour and packaging cooked cereals, bread mixes and other whole-grain foods. The company's main business is supplying its Bob's Red Mill brand to natural foods distributors across the nation.
But lately business has increased dramatically as people who are worried about Y2K are going to its Milwaukie headquarters to feverishly stock up on emergency food supplies and food-storage equipment.
"This is just crazy, and it will all be over with when they find out the sky doesn't fall January 2nd or January 3rd," said Bob Moore, president and founder of Bob's Red Mill. Moore said his sales pitch since the 1970s has been better living through better eating, and he finds the doomsday fervor over Y2K astonishing.
The Y2K crowd prefers to hoard whole grains and beans because they are nutritious and will keep for years. Plus, many varieties can be cooked and eaten whole, ground into flour or sprouted for salad greens. Sales clerks said the outlet store is doing twice its normal volume of business.
Moore declined to disclose the privately held company's numbers, although he said the Y2K-related business now represents about 8 percent of its sales. Families that make special orders of $1,000 worth of grain is no longer a rare occurrence, he said.
The Y2K computer problem will cause some software and chips to misinterpret the year 2000 as 1900. The result will be system failures worldwide on Jan. 1, 2000. How much trouble the "millennium bug" will actually trigger is an open question.
Bob's Red Mill has always catered to a small contingent of customers who purchase and store grain in large quantities. Members of the Mormon Church , for example, stockpile food in keeping with religious doctrine. Word-of-mouth has been the primary sales force for the Y2K business.
"A lot of people aren't even sure why they're here. They've just heard people talk with some alarming overtones," said Dennis Gilliam, the company's vice president and general manager. Business related to Y2K sales are responsible for generating two or three new jobs at the company, he said.
Besides special orders for entire pallets of wheat, corn, oats and dried beans, the store has also experienced an upsurge in sales of manually operated grain mills that cost about $150. Some people who are convinced Y2K will wreak havoc have said it may be necessary to hand-grind grain when computer glitches take down electric power grids and food distribution systems.
Grain-storage containers are flying off the shelves, Gilliam said. The most popular model is a $7 plastic bucket that seals airtight with a rubber gasket and holds 50 pounds of grain. One shipment has been sold out and a truckload of 5,300 of the buckets is on its way to Oregon from its Tennessee manufacturer, Gilliam said.
The store sells oxygen absorption packets that you drop into sealed storage containers to prevent spoilage and bug infestations. How-to books, such as "Don't Get Caught With Your Pantry Down," have been big sellers, too.
On a recent sunny Saturday, about 50 people clustered in a darkened room adjoining the outlet store to watch a two-hour slide show presentation about how to survive if the Y2K meltdown disrupts the flow of goods to supermarkets. They sat attentively as a local author gave tips about growing sprouts, making bread the old-fashioned way and turning powdered milk into homemade yogurt.
Gilliam said he's bought a few goods to prepare for Y2K, but he hasn't socked away massive quantities of food. Of course, he has access to an entire warehouse full of such supplies.
-- Norm (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 29, 1999
Wow! People are stocking up on food for y2k. Who woulda thunk it? Thanks for the late-breaking news report, Norm.
-- rick blaine (email@example.com), March 29, 1999.
Bob of Red Mill thinks that it is crazy, and it will all be over when they find that the sky doesn't fall Jan 2nd or Jan 3rd. He finds the doomsday fervor over Y2K astonishing.
Yet notice how he is quite happy to promote it. "on a recent sunny Saturday, about 50 people clustered in a darkened room ADJOINING the outlet store to watch a two-hour slide show presentation about how to survive if the Y2K meltdown disrupts the flow of goods to supermarkets. They sat attentively as a local author gave tips about growing sprouts, making bread the old-fashioned way and turning powdered milk into homemade yogurt."
-- Can't (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 29, 1999.
Bob's Red Mill has great prices for what they offer...I've puzzled and pondered over catalogs...since Y2K awareness, more than at other times...buying in bulk is a good thing, emergency or not.
-- Donna Barthuley (email@example.com), March 29, 1999.
It wasn't very long ago that the norm was to stock up on food for the year. Everyone did this. Else you starved. You canned and dried and put up food in the root cellar. Plus salted and smoked and whatever.
It's only been fairly recently in our history as an agrarian society that we have stopped doing this and have let the grocery stores "stockpile" for us. The Mormons never stopped. I don't think it's an unhealthy practice in the least- the idea of not having food around if storms hit or whatever is scary to me. So- maybe this will encourage the folks who never even think about dinner til 4:00 and have to stop at the store to buy it, to keep some edibles around(besides those leftover soy sauce packets that is).
Maybe they'll even start eating healthier- rice, beans, whole wheat, sprouts- life expectancy will go thru the roof!
-- anita (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 29, 1999.