Bob Sanderson, Legendary Grower of Organic Green Sprouts in the U.S. Dies, Age 79

Rochester, MA – Robert Sanderson, co-founder and former president of Jonathan Sprouts, Inc., died early in the morning of Monday, January 9, 2023, due to complications with pneumonia.  Bob was born June 23, 1943 in Boston and attended Phillips Academy, Andover, and University of California, Berkely, where he was a Buckminster Fuller enthusiast, active in the free speech movement, and played in several jazz bands. 

Bob, along with his wife, Barbara, started Jonathan Sprouts in 1976, and the two have been credited as pioneers of the US commercial sprouting industry.  By 2021, when the Sanderson’s sold the business to family members after 46 years at the helm, Jonathan’s had become one of the largest and most venerable growers of green sprouts in the U.S., and can be found in major grocers in the Northeast, including Stop and Shop, Shaw’s, Market Basket, Hannaford Bros., Price Chopper, Big Y, Giant, Food Lion and Giant Eagle, as well as major foodservice distributors such as Sysco, Fresh Point, Costa and Baldor. 

In 1990, Bob and Barbara helped found the International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA), which will hold its 30th convention in Miami this May.  Bob was President of ISGA from 2001 to 2019.

Bob’s leadership as a developer and promoter of sampling and testing protocols has led to the reshaping of the sprout industry as well as the produce industry at large.  He was on the steering committee of the FDA Sprout Safety Alliance to develop a sprout safety audit with FDA and USDA. He was a frequent presenter at industry meetings, including IAFP (International Association for Food Protection) and First World Congress on Organic Food, where he spoke about risk-management strategies. 

In addition, the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) recognized Robert and Barbara Sanderson as the 2018 Darsh Wasan Food Safety Award recipients.  This award is given to recognize the achievements of individuals in the field of food science and technology who have made outstanding contributions to food safety or nutrition across government, academia, and industry.

Bob was a devoted musician, playing flute and clarinet for the South Coast Tri-County Symphonic Band, several small instrumental groups, as well as playing at many functions in the community. 

Bob is survived by his wife, Barbi, brothers Colin and Ken, his daughter Samantha Sanderson, stepchildren Donald and Francie Brewster, and five grandchildren, as well as numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.