100 years of Robin Hood

bakers journal
February 28, 2010
Written by bakers journal
Robin Hood’s original mill in Moose Jaw, Sask. and 100th anniversary logo (inset).
Few brands in Canada enjoy as much name and logo recognition as Robin Hood. Its familiarity has helped it become one of the leading names in flour, mixes and bases for the retail, foodservice and industrial baking markets, and in 2009 it turned 100 years old.

Although the company International Multifoods no longer exists, the Robin Hood brand is “alive and well,” says Horizon Milling marketing manager Elaine O’Doherty.

Cargill’s Horizon Milling division bought International Multifoods Canadian  industrial foodservice and milling assets from Smucker Foods in 2006. Smucker, which bought International Multifoods in 2004, continues to handle retail operations while licensing the brand to Horizon Milling for the foodservice and industrial channels.

“As we are celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the Robin Hood brand, Horizon Milling is also celebrating 100 years of milling expertise in Canada,” O’Doherty says. “Nothing changed with the product when the brand changed hands. In fact, a lot of customers still refer to us as Robin Hood.”

Robin Hood, the company, was founded in 1909 by Francis Atherton Bean, president of International Milling in Minneapolis, who launched the business with a mill in Moose Jaw, Sask.

With a population of 7,000, Moose Jaw was, at the time, Saskatchewan’s largest city, and Bean’s mill opened to great excitement. In a short time, the mill had become a vital fixture in the local economy. Bean had it remodelled, and in less than two years it was producing more than 1,600 barrels of flour a day.

In the 1920s, production shifted from Moose Jaw to Saskatoon, and Robin Hood expanded into Quebec, buying a Montreal mill that continues to operate today. In fact, the Montreal facility was remodelled in the 2000s – a project that expanded its capacity by one-third, making it one of the largest mills in Canada.

During the World War II years, Robin Hood became increasingly involved in the community. It produced the popular radio show “On Parade.” Similar to “Name That Tune,” it offered prizes to winners and brought thousands of households some cheerful relief from wartime hardship.

Robin Hood also responded to a crisis at home. In the summer of 1950, Winnipeg suffered the worst flood in the history of North America. Robin Hood donated clothes, supplies and a $10,000 cheque for the flood relief fund.

By the end of the 1960s, Robin Hood was producing hundreds of products from its traditional flour, from oat cereals to baking mixes and condiments in order to fully serve the consumer, bakery and foodservice markets, and that full-service commitment continues today.

One of the most visceral aspects of the company’s development over the years is the evolution of its logo featuring Robin Hood, in various incarnations. In one of his earliest appearances, in 1910, he bore a passing resemblance to King Edward VII. Then, in 1936, a redesign gave him the plumage and dashing good looks of Hollywood star Errol Flynn’s portrayal of Robin Hood.

However, in 1958 a revision of the logo occurred when  a New York packaging designer was hired to give the brand a makeover. The designer conducted a survey of consumers and found that Robin Hood was associated with the colours red and green and should be wearing a hat with a plume.

From these simple criteria he came up with the minimalist side-profile design that is still in use today, as Robin Hood welcomes its second century while acknowledging the hard work that made its first possible.

The Robin Hood brand has come a long way since the days when flour was sold in wooden barrels. Much has changed, but the companies behind the brand say their philosophy has remained the same: they’re sensitive to change, so they can help you improve your business. 

On the web: www.horizonmilling.ca , www.smuckers.ca
More in this category: « Brick by brick  |  Leading the way »

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