Tracing Seaboard's deep roots in flour milling

by Emily Wilson
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Seaboard's roots in flour milling date back to the early 1900s. At a time when milling companies were largely defined by the region in which they operated, Seaboard for decades represented the largest milling company in the southwest United States — Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska and Colorado.

Established as Seaboard Flour Co. by Otto Bresky of Boston, the company entered the flour milling business in 1918 and grew through a number of acquisitions, including Rodney Milling Co. in 1928, Ismert-Hincke Milling Co. in 1938, Consolidated Flour Mills Co. in 1950 and Blair Milling Co. in 1955. The various milling businesses were folded together in 1959 into a new business — Seaboard Allied Milling Co.

In the early 1960s, the company began a significant mill building program, locating flour mills in major population centers, including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Jacksonville, Florida; Albany, New York; Port Allen, Louisiana; and Culpeper, Virginia. The five flour mills were built over a 14-year period.

It was also in the 1960s when the company took its first step outside the United States, with the acquisition in 1966 of a flour mill in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a joint venture with Continental Grain Co. In the same year, Seaboard built a flour mill in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and in 1970 it built a mill in Georgetown, Guyana.

Since selling its U.S. flour milling business, Seaboard Corp. has moved in a number of directions, but none as spectacular as its extraordinary investment in the U.S. pork processing industry. The company spent nearly four years building a state-of-the-art pork processing facility at Guymon, Oklahoma.

Seaboard plans to begin construction shortly on a second plant. The vertically integrated pork operation will comprise production facilities capable of producing 2 million market hogs annually and a processing facility with double-shift capacity in excess of 4 million hogs annually.

Over the last year, the company has devoted considerable resources to information technology through the creation of the Internet Commodity Exchange, an on-line market focused presently on cash grain trading. ICE has a number of strategic investors/partners, including Farmland Industries, Inc.