Overseas Adventist Food Companies: Work with Soyfoods

A Special Exhibit - The History of Soy Pioneers Around the World - Unpublished Manuscript

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

ęCopyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is surely the world's only church that owns and operates a worldwide chain of food factories--and, moreover, factories that make natural, healthy vegetarian foods.

As early as the 1890s, the Adventist church began to start companies outside the United States to manufacture and sell such foods. The kitchens of most overseas sanitariums (hospitals) and many schools also produced such foods. The first soyfoods were produced in East Asia starting in the 1930s at organizations established by Dr. Harry Miller, as explained earlier. Starting in the late 1960s there was a rapid increase in use of soy, mostly in the form of TSF and soymilk. TSF (textured soy flour) is extruded defatted soy flour, which prior to 1984 was widely called TSP (textured soy protein); TVP is the Archer Daniels Midland brand-name for such a product. By 1984 soy was one of the most rapidly growing Adventist foods worldwide.

One problem that Adventists have faced in less developed countries is to produce soy protein foods that are within financial reach of the local population. To deal with this, in 1976 a World Food Service Expansion Program was initiated. It established a fund to finance food expansion into countries with serious nutritional problems and, more specifically, to allow Adventist food engineers to develop simple, low-cost equipment for producing textured soy flour (TSF), soymilk, and other basic foods. Where previously the smallest unit for the manufacture of TSF cost about $25,000, Adventist technicians were able to bring the cost down to $15,000. The first of these units was set up in Jamaica (when?). In 1971 the various Adventist international companies had only one extrusion cooker for making TSF (where?). In 1981 they had three in Australia, one each in operation in Jamaica, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the US, and one being set up in South Africa. Some of these were Wenger X-25s and some were the new low-cost models built by Loma Linda Foods. In Third World countries that did not have soybean crushing plants, the defatted soy meal for TSF usually had to be imported. Egypt got theirs from Europe; Costa Rica got theirs from the US or Mexico. The TSF was typically sold in dry form in a small plastic container (not in bulk) with recipes and serving suggestions for use in meatless curries, loaves, sauces, tacos or taco fillings, and the like.

Another development under the expansion program was the introduction of a soymilk technology and packaging suited to Third World countries. The food plant in Mexico introduced a liquid soymilk packaged in an inexpensive plastic bag; the cost is low but the shelf life is short. Even more promising is a new method for making soymilk by dry processing from start to finish. Developed and patented in 1976 by Adventists Frederick Drachenberg and Paul Allred, first put into commercial operation in Egypt in 1977 (usually using locally grown soybeans), and described in detail in Soyfoods magazine (Shurtleff 1980), it involved cooking whole dry soybeans with microwaves, which required a low capital outlay and eliminated expensive spray drying. Sold in a cardboard carton and having a shelf life of 6 months, the new soymilk has been well accepted in Egypt and plans are underway to introduce a similar product in Colombia and other Third World countries. A third product being developed is a specially formulated textured soy cutlet for use in curries and soups. Priorities for the future are expanding the production and distribution of these foods in less developed countries where food and protein problems are already scarce.

Since 1968 the World Food Service of the Adventist church, with headquarters in Washington, DC, coordinated the world network of food company operations, doing food development, research, technical training, and marketing work. In addition, each regional division had its own director. As of 1981 the future of this Service is uncertain (John 1981).

Asia. The earliest Adventist denominational food company outside the United States was started in Japan in 1928. Known today as Saniku Foods (Saniku Shokuhin), it was initially called Saniku Gakuen Shokuhin-bu (the food department of the Saniku School). Its purpose was to provide a place for the students to work and to learn food processing. Dr. Perry Webber was principal of the school at that time (see part 3 above). Soyfoods were first produced by Adventists in Asia in 1936, when Dr. Miller made soymilk at his plant connected with the Shanghai Sanitarium. Small soy dairies were established at the Hangkow-Wuhan Sanitarium (1937), Canton Mission School (1938), Taiwan Sanitarium (1953), Saniku School in Japan (1959), Mountain View College in Mindanao, Philippines (1959), Hong Kong Hospital and South China Union College (1960), Bandung College in Indonesia (1960) and Spicer Memorial College in India (1972). The denominational SDA Korean Food Factory started in 1978. Today the largest Adventist soyfood and health food producer in Asia is Japan's Saniku Foods, which makes a line of products including various types of canned soymilk. Apparently Saniku's legal connection with the Adventist church only began in 1970.

Australia and New Zealand. The earliest Adventist denominational food factory in Australia, the Sanitarium Health Food Agency was started near Melbourne in about 1897. In speeches given in Victoria in 1893 and 1895, Ellen White, then residing in Australia, had urged church leaders to move forward in the production of health foods and the establishment of vegetarian restaurants. Once established, the Agency started by importing Dr. Kellogg's health foods from Battle Creek, but that same year began producing its own Granola, Caramel Cereal, and peanut butter. A second factory started in Coorabong, New South Wales, in 1899. The first Adventist food factory in New Zealand was established in 1900 in Christchurch. By 1904 Adventists were opening vegetarian restaurants and cafes in major Australian cities. By 1981 the company with headquarters in Wahroonga, New South Wales, had grown into a network of 18 factories making "Sanitarium" breakfast foods and vegetarian foods throughout Australia and New Zealand, plus 73 retail food stores, all with a work force of over 1,400 regular employees and 100 students. Between 1975 and 1979, Sanitarium Health Foods had averaged sales of $80 million (Australian) a year. In 1978 the company's profit was $6 million (Australian) (John 1981).

Soyfoods arrived late in Australia. In 1954 the Sanitarium Food Company produced its first food containing soy: Soya Beans in Tomato Sauce. Other products, similar to those already developed at Loma Linda Foods in California, were introduced in the early 1960s. In 1981 Sanitarium Foods was extruding their own TSF and selling it as dry granules or chunks, mostly flavored, as a meat substitute or extender. They produced the following 13 products containing soy, mainly flour but with some soy protein isolate added to the predominantly gluten-based meat analogs: Vegetarian Sausage, Rediburger (canned vegetarian loaf), Flavored TSF (flavors include smoked, roast, savoury, southern, or sweet & sour), Vegelinks (vegetarian frankfurter), Soya Beans in Tomato Sauce, Bologna (canned frankfurter flavored loaf), Vegecuts (vegetarian steaklets), Soya Beans Natural (canned in brine), Vitaburger (flavored TSF), TSF Flavored Like Beef (or Fish; canned flavored cheeselike loaf), and Unflavored TSF. They made no meat analogs based on spun soy protein fiber, since it was not available. They are working to develop an isolate soymilk. They have tried for years to make soymilk from Australian-grown soybeans but have a problem with a fungus on the bean that causes the milk to curdle after it is canned.

As of 1981 Australia had a booming health food industry and Sanitarium Health Food Company was one of its leaders. Their best selling product was a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal called Weet Bix, the country's best-selling such product; it outsold even Kellogg's Corn Flakes. The Australians ran such an efficient and profitable operation that church leaders, recognizing their superb managerial and marketing expertise, invited them to help struggling Adventist food companies in other parts of the world, including Granose in Britain and Loma Linda in the US, both of which came under Australian management in 1979 and 1980, respectively (John 1981).

Europe. The earliest Adventist denominational food companies in Europe were started in Switzerland (PHAG/Fabrique de Produits Dietetiques, 1895), Denmark (Nutana, 1898), England (Granose Foods, 1899), West Germany (De-Vau-Ge, 1899), and France (Pur-Aliment Food Factory, 1928). There are also companies in Norway (Dagens Kost, 1970), Sweden (Edakost, 1970), Austria (Austrian Food Company, 1976), and Finland (Finn-Nutana, 1979). Of these nine European Adventist food companies, only three manufacture their own products: DE-VAU-GE (pronounced day-fah-GAY) of West Germany is the largest, followed by Nutana of Denmark and Granose of England. The other six are only marketing organizations; they sell products made by one or more of the three manufacturers. The first Adventist soyfood to appear in Europe was Granose's Canned Soya Beans in Tomato Sauce, introduced in the late 1950s. The first meat analog containing soy was Beeflike and Chickenlike Slices, made and marketed by Nutana in about 1967.

In 1981 Nutana was doing the most advanced work with soy of any Adventist food company outside the US. They started in the early 1960s importing spun protein fibers (SPF) from the US. Now they import soy fibers spun by DE-VAU-GE in Germany and use them to make a range of meat analogs. In 1981 Nutana made the following canned foods containing soy: Soya Pro with Beef-like Flavor (or Chicken-like Flavor), Soya Sausages, Soya Goulash, Goulash, Mexican Bean Casserole, Fricassee, Soya Beans in Tomato, Soya Beans in Vegetable Bouillon, Dinner Balls, Frikalett (rissole), Bean Paste, and Vegetarian Paste. Nutana also sells dry packaged Soya Beans, TSF (PRO with Beef-Like or Plain Flavor, granulated or diced), Soya Protein-92 food supplement, and Soya Lecithin Capsules. Some of these 19 products are also sold under Finnish, Dutch, and English labels.

DE-VAU-GE uses its spun protein fibers to make most of the same meat analogs as Nutana. Their first soyfood, a sausage analog, was introduced in about 1970. In 1981 the following were sold under DE-VAU-GE's GranoVita brand: Linseneintopf, Chinesisches Soja-Ragout, Jaegerragout "Hubertus," Soja Wurstchen (regular or frankfurter style), Soja-Zart, Soja-Vita, Pasta Chuta Bolognese, Sojafleisch-Klosschen, Soja Goulasch, Koletts, Soja Curry, Sojagen Instant, Soja-Pikant, Soja-Steakli, and Soja-Knabberei (16 soy products). Their best-sellers were the sausages and cutlets.

In 1981 Granose Foods in England sold the following foods containing soy: Sausaltas (vegetarian sausages, plain or smoked), Saviand (meat analog resembling Protose), Soya Beans in Tomato Sauce (or brine), Goulash (TSF-vegetable stew), Curry (mainly TSF), Bolognese Sauce (with TSF), and Chicken Flavoured Pie Filling (with TSF). They imported some of these meat analogs under their own brand from Nutana and also imported soymilk from Loma Linda in Ohio, and packaged it under the Granose brand.

Earned income figures for 1978 were impressive: DE-VAU-GE's income was $12.2 million (second only to Sanitarium Health Foods in Australia), Nutana's was $7.6 million ($10 million in 1979), and Granose's was $1.8 million. Nutana showed an impressive tenfold sales increase from 1973 to 1979. Profit figures, however, were not impressive: In 1978 Granose lost about $295,000 and Nutana $5,903. DE-VAU-GE's profits were unknown. Granose had been a consistent money loser; between 1975 and 1978 it lost an average of $101,000 a year and its net worth decreased from $331,902 in 1975 to $113,515 in 1978. Thus in October 1979 Sanitarium Health Foods of Australia was asked to take over the management of ailing Granose (John 1981).

Latin America. The earliest Adventist denominational food companies in Latin America were started in Argentina (Alimentos Granix, 1938), Uruguay (Productos Frutigran, 1961), Costa Rica (Industrias COVAC, 1967), Mexico (Alimentos COLPAC, 1969), Jamaica (Westico Foods, 1970), and Brazil (Superbom Company, 1971). There are also plants in Colombia (name?) (1972) and Chile (1975). The Inter-American Division Food Co., started in 1977 in Coral Gables, Florida, coordinates operations of these companies. The first soyfood produced in these companies was probably the soymilk produced in Mexico in 1968 (69?). In 1981 soymilk was also produced at an Adventist plant (name?) in Montemorelos, N.L., Mexico, in Brazil (Superbom), and Colombia. Extruded TSF was produced in Brazil, Mexico, and Jamaica.

In about 1978 Superbom in Brazil and Granix in Argentina entered the soy protein business and by 1981 were producing a total of 700 tons of TSF a year. The demand for these products was caused, in part, by government proclaimed "meatless days" instituted in Brazil and Argentina so that those countries could export more meat. To keep up with the strong demand for its line of health food products, Granix in 1981 kept its 300 workers busy in three shifts, 24 hours a day. Some 40% of the company's profits were transferred directly to the church, with considerable sums going to finance evangelism. The company's sales rose impressively from $1.2 million in 1976 to $6.7 million in 1978. Brazil's Superbom was also doing an impressive business with 1978 sales of over $7 million, and a thriving chain of three vegetarian restaurants--the company's most distinctive feature (John 1981).

Africa. Two Adventist food plants have been opened in Africa: in Transvaal, South Africa (National True Foods, 1956) and in Cairo, Egypt (Egyptian Food Factory, 1977). The first soyfood was soymilk made at the Egyptian plant starting in 1977.