About Cook’s Vanilla & R.R. Lochhead Manufacturing
The Story of Cook’s Vanilla
Cook’s vanilla represents the Lochhead family’s 100-year obsession with vanilla. Ray Lochhead has long been recognized as a true maverick in the industry, traveling the globe in search of the highest quality vanilla beans, and experimenting for many years to find the perfect balance and beautiful simplicity that makes the best pure vanilla extract.
Ken Cook, who had discovered R.R. Lochhead’s vanilla when he was president of Dreyer’s Ice Cream, dreamed of offering these exquisite extracts to households around the country. In partnering with Ray, Cook Flavoring Company was born to bring Lochhead’s peerless vanilla straight to kitchens, ice cream companies, bakeries, and restaurants all over the United States and the world.
The story of Ray Lochhead and Cook’s Vanilla
One bottle of Cook’s Pure Vanilla represents 100 years of the Lochhead family’s innovation in vanilla and tireless exploration of the mysteries of this spice that is so exquisite, so mysterious that it acts on human senses like a narcotic. Cook Flavoring Company was born out of Raymond R. Lochhead’s pioneering in the world of vanilla. A chemist, engineer, and artist, his experimentations led to higher standards for extraction. His formulation of pure vanilla powder was revolutionary as the first pure vanilla alternative to extract. And he was among the first to travel the world in order to open up emerging markets for vanilla beans.
The story of who we are shows where we are headed:
Angus Tulloch Lochhead, Sr., immigrates from Scotland to St. Louis. American households are adopting refrigeration, and, as a salesman, he sees an opportunity in superior vanilla extract and flavorings—which he knows are key to superior ice cream, baked goods, and candies.
Angus Lochhead builds his factory and begins to introduce his pure vanilla extract to bakeries and dairies around the Midwest, starting the family business.
The vanilla factory burns to the ground! Factory or no factory, Angus goes out to sell his vanilla. The owner of City Ice Cream Company says: “Lochhead, I read that your place burned down. What are you going to do?” Lochhead replies: “I am going to build on ashes.” City Ice Cream Company places an order then and there, and the family business carries on.
The Great Depression hits, but Angus Lochhead “puts on his sales togs” and hits the road to sell. His wife knows where he is based on the orders that arrive for her to fill. Throughout the Depression, he is able to keep food on the table for his family … thanks to vanilla.
Angus Lochhead’s son Raymond R Lochhead goes west to study mechanical and chemical engineering at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California. He is the first Lochhead to attend college. While there, he begins exploring the chemistry of vanilla: breaking down the flavor components to make the most intense, aromatic extract.
The United States enters World War II, and Ray Lochhead leaves Cal Tech for the U.S. Navy.
Ray is stationed on board the USS Yorktown, destined for Midway in the Pacific Theater. Just before she embarks, he gets deployed elsewhere. The Yorktown is hit by three Japanese bombs in June, 1942. When Ray embarks for the South Pacific, it will be for vanilla.
With the war over, Ray marries Emilie, his best friend’s sister. They head to Pasadena, where Ray finishes his studies at Cal Tech. His mentors include the great Linus Pauling.
Ray’s studies have laid the groundwork for his extensive and ingenious work in the formulation and manufacturing of vanilla. He enters the family business in St. Louis.
Ray goes to Mexico to source his own beans and start his study of the art of vanilla curing.
With a dream to expand the company, Ray returns to California with his young family, settling in Paso Robles. Located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco, he can supply both. As they are major ports, he can easily import vanilla from overseas. He builds a one-seater plane and takes it all around the West and California—as far away as Utah and Washington. After he makes a sale, he flies back to the plant to fulfill the order.
He saws his Honda 50 motorcycle in half and bolts hinges to it so he can fold it up to fit into the airplane. When he lands in a new town, he unfolds it and drives from customer to customer. If it’s raining, he stops off in the Laundromats to dry his clothes between visits. He sells a lot of vanilla that way.
With the R.R. Lochhead Manufacturing Company established, he sets up a food technology lab specializing in infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography to conduct research and development of vanilla and other flavors. His innovation ranges from the mechanics of processing to discovery of new flavor formulations.
Ray experiments endlessly, perfecting his slow, cold, direct extraction methods to produce the best vanilla on the market.
Always an innovator, Ray begins traveling to all the vanilla regions of the world—Madagascar, Bali, Tonga, Fiji, India, Mauritius—to compare size and quality of beans and curing methods; and to help open up emerging markets and to buy directly at the source.
He sets up vanilla curing operations in Bali and Fiji, and cultivates relationships with growers in Madagascar and Tonga. These relationships continue today.
1980: the Ken Cook connection
Ken Cook, president of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, searches for the highest quality vanilla for his ice cream, knowing that not all vanillas are equal and that superior ice cream starts with superior extract. He uncovers R.R. Lochhead’s family legacy in Paso Robles, and chooses Ray to produce all extracts and flavorings for Dreyer’s. When Ken Cook retires from Dreyer’s, he and Ray launch a new label: Cook’s Pure Vanilla, distributing vanilla produced by R.R. Lochhead Manufacturing Company.
1990s: Cook’s and R.R. Lochhead Mfng
Ken Cook passes away in 1991, and Ray and his daughter, Josephine Lochhead, acquire Cook’s, merging the two companies into one.
2000s and Today
Ray’s daughter and son-in-law, Josephine and Donald Schmidt expand operations. Their daughter, Margaret, takes the helm in the in-house lab armed with a chemistry degree, and another granddaughter, Susannah, continues the company’s commitment to sourcing directly from growers of the finest vanilla beans.
Cook’s was among the first companies to promote organic certification for vanilla growers in Tonga, and we continue to work tirelessly to educate farmers in the proper harvesting methods and traditional curing.
With its California manufacturing plant and laboratory, and overseas plantations and curing operations, Cook Flavoring Company, now in the family’s fourth generation, is a vertically integrated company representing the Lochhead family’s long history with and love for vanilla.