Even though it became an iconic brand across the Carolinas, Red Band flour actually was born in Tennessee, part of what was called the most important milling project ever undertaken in the South at the time.
According to the Johnson City Press, the Model Mill was built in Johnson City, Tenn., in 1909, a $100,000 project to create a modern mill that could produce 1,000 barrels a day and supply flour to five states. With the completion of the CC&O Railroad, Model Mill aimed particularly at markets in North Carolina and South Carolina.
In 1925, the mill began making Red Band, a high-grade, 94-percent bran-free flour made from a blend of soft wheats and designed for making quick breads, biscuits and tender, fine-textured cakes. The company bragged that each batch was “kitchen-tested,” which became the slogan. In 1930, nine volunteers were recruited from a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and given samples of cakes made from three brands of flour. Red Band stood out, receiving seven votes as the best.
Red Band became so popular that the mill changed to that name in 1931. In 1933, in the depth of the Depression, General Mills bought the assets of Red Band Milling Co., but continued to produce Red Band in Johnson City until the mill closed in 2003, after 94 years.
General Mills merged with Pillsbury in 2001. Red Band was sold to International MultiFoods, which was sold to J.M. Smucker’s, along with White Lily, in 2004. In 2009, citing limited demand for a regional brand, Smucker’s discontinued Red Band and focused on White Lily as the national brand for low-protein, soft-wheat flour.