Food In Canada

Who’s Who 2023: Mark Rinker, co-owner, Arva Flour Mills

By Jack Kazmierski   

Food In Canada Grain & Oilseed Milling Arva Flour Mills Editor pick Ontario

Mark Rinker and wife Joelle breathe life into a 204-year-old mill


Mark Rinker and his wife Joelle are co-owners of Arva Flour Mills, located in the community of Arva, just north of London, Ont. They bought the business in October 2021, with absolutely no prior industry experience.

Rinker, however, has a personal connection with the mill. “My dad had a business right across the highway from the mill,” he explains. “I knew that the mill had a unique history. In fact, we’re the oldest water-powered flour mill in North America, and we’re Canada’s oldest continuously operated flour mill. We’re Canada’s sixth oldest business, and we’ve been in continuous operation for over 204 years.”

Prior to buying the mill, Rinker worked in management and sales in the pharmacy industry for the better part of 35 years. However, when the pharmacy automation company Rinker was working for was sold, he decided to turn the page and start a new chapter in his life. 

“I retired from the company, and then eight days later this mill popped up for sale,” he adds.

Rinker says that his more than 35 years of experience in sales is helping him with his new venture. 

“Whether you’re selling a bag of flour, cereal, or a piece of diagnostic equipment, it’s all the same,” he says. “Although I never sold anything food-related, I figured I had the skillset that would transfer over and allow me to succeed.”

Challenges

Although Rinker says he was right about having transferable skills, he admits that things haven’t gone as smoothly as he had initially hoped. 

“Soon after we took over the business, war broke out in Ukraine. Since we buy our flour on the spot market, the price of grain doubled for us overnight,” he adds. “We had to eat some of those costs. We couldn’t pass them on. We’re competing with national brands that buy on the futures market and their prices were locked in.”

That challenge, however, proved to benefit Rinker since it forced him to develop new products. “We started thinking about how we could make the flour work harder for us,” he explains. “So, rather than just putting it in bags, we started to use our flour to make different types of dry mixes, and they ended up selling extremely well.” 

Red River Cereal

Eight months after purchasing Arva Flour Mills, Rinker purchased Red River Cereal. “This iconic hot cereal was invented in Winnipeg in 1924, but had been discontinued,” Rinker says. “I could clearly see a fit for a nearly one-century-old brand to come home to a two-century-old mill. So we contacted Smuckers Canada who owned the brand, and we came to an agreement that made sense for both sides.”

Despite some setbacks and challenges, Rinker says that when he looks at his five-year plan, he’s right where he thought he would be two years in. Having developed a host of new products (including a new gluten-free flour), and having resurrected the Red River Cereal brand, Rinker says he is now focused on production and distribution.

When it comes to hitting our targets for our five-year plan,” he says, “that’s going to require a combination of growing our products under the Arva Flour brand and under the Red River Cereal brand, while also increasing the distribution points for both. I’m confident we’re well on our way to achieving our goals.”

This article was originally published in the April/May 2023 issue of Food in Canada.


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