Dr. Charles E. Fearn and Fearn Soya Foods
by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
One of the most interesting of the early
pioneers of soybeans and soyfoods in both Europe and America was Dr.
Charles E. Fearn, a respected and affluent upper-class British physician,
who played a key role in introducing whole soy flour and many creative
foods made from it to America. He founded various companies and one
remains active today selling soyfoods to the US natural and health food
Unfortunately, there is a shortage of reliable documentation describing Dr. Fearn's life and work prior to 1935, and there are many unsolved puzzles. Yet from what does exist we can piece together the story of a courageous and imaginative figure, who was more a creator-inventor-scientist than a businessman, and whose ideas were ahead of his time.
Early Years in Europe. Charles E. Fearn was born in about 1878-80 in England. He married a woman named Minnie; unfortunately the date and place of the marriage are unknown. Little is known of his early life. He apparenlty became a physician, however we do not known where or when he attended medical school. After becoming a physician (according to a popular health booklet of about 1944 ref??) he may have done some research showing that vitamin B was not a single vitamin, but a group or complex of vitamins. However an extensive search of the early literature on vitamin research reveals no publications by him.
It is not clear when or how Dr. Fearn was introduced to soyfoods and developed a deep interest in them. In 1912 England's first soymilk, called Solac, began to be manufactured by the Solac Co. (also called the Synthetic Milk Syndicate), first at 221 Tottenham Court Road, London W., England, and later at Liverpool, England. Could Dr. Fearn have worked with that organization? There is no clear evidence to indicate that he did, except that in the mid-1930s he made a soymilk in America which he called Solac. In 1935 the British writer Bowdidge noted that just before World War I " . . . an enterprising English firm was making great strides with soya products. Vegetable butter, biscuits, cocoa, milk chocolates and other confectionery, cream, cakes, bread etc., proved quite a success until a war-time embargo placed upon the importation of soya beans put a stop to the business; the organizers eventually went to America!" Could one of those organizers have been Dr. Fearn? If he was, he is not known to have ever made written reference to that important fact.
During World War I Dr. Fearn was said to be a physician in the English Royal Army Medical Corps. He was said to be in charge of a hospital in England. It is possible that during the War (or more likely during the mid-1920s) he traveled to China and/or Manchuria and came in contact there with soybeans and soyfoods, although there is no clear evidence that he did. Dr. Fearn later wrote that after the war he devoted most of his research to the subject of nutrition.
Early Work in the USA (1917-1929). The only known history of Dr. Fearn's early work is a one-page typewritten document prepared in the mid-1950s by Paul Richard, a friend of Dr. Fearn's since at least the mid-1930s. Dr. Fearn lived in Paul Richard's home on at least three occasions. Paul Richard was a salesman, selling wheat flour for Willis Norton Co. in Wichita, Kansas: in 1949 he purchased Dr. Fearn's company. Paul Richard's history begins: "In 1917 President Wilson summoned Charles E. Fearn, M.D. to the United States to develop a soybean industry here as part of our war effort . . . He was recognized as a world authority on the soybean . . . Dr. Fearn was granted US citizenship by Act of Congress and after the war he turned his attention to promoting the soybean as a commercial venture" (Richard and Richard 1963). Granted, there is probably some hyperbole in these statements. It is nevertheless interesting that a relatively affluent, upper-class British physician, with many other responsibilities, took such a serious interest in soybeans and soyfoods at such an early date, and was even willing to leave his hospital directorship in the midst of a war to come to the USA to teach others about soy. In the US Dr. Fearn's first work was to encourage farmers to grow more soybeans. The US government wanted to promote this new crop for use as a food both at home and for allied nations in Europe. Dr. Fearn attended farmers' meetings and offered practical advice and help.
The only document describing Dr. Fearn's work prior to 1929 is Paul Richard's one-page "History of Fearn Soya Foods," mentioned earlier. Although, as we will show later, there are various reasons to question the accuracy of this account, we will present it here and question it later. According to the Richard account, elaborated on by interviews with his sons, in 1920 Dr. Fearn started the Soyex Company in New York. His first product was a whole soy flour (perhaps a roasted soy flour), which was used mainly in breads. The company soon grew to have 5-6 employees. Dr. Fearn decided to stay in America with his work; his wife in England decided not to join him. Soon, however, the company ran into difficulties, for postwar consumers in America quickly lost their wartime interest in soyfoods. There were also managerial and marketing problems. After a few years, the company went bankrupt.
In 1923 Dr. Fearn moved to Chicago, where he started Fearn Laboratories and supposedly developed a number of products which became well known during the late 1930s: Viana, Solac, and Pure Soya Powder. (Actually, there is firm evidence that Viana was not introduced until 1937, and the earliest existing reference to Solac dates from 1935). Fearn Laboratories was modestly successful.
According to Paul Richard's one-page History, Dr. Fearn's next major move, after founding Fearn Laboratories in 1923, was to establish Fearn Soya Foods Company in 1925??. It was probably initially called Soya Food Products and was probably located at 701 N. Western Ave. in Chicago. Among the company's first products were said to be Soy-O Wheat Cereal & Soya??, SOY-O Pancake Mix, and Pure Soya Powder. Thirty years later some of these foods were still being produced according to their original formulas.
One of the most important influences on Dr. Fearn's work with soy, and especially with whole soy flour, was Dr. Laszlo Berczeller, whose life and work are described in detail in Chapter 53. At some point during the 1920s Dr. Fearn became familiar with the new and improved process for making whole soy flour developed by Dr. Berczeller in Austria after 1921. Dr. Fearn may well have visited Dr. Berczeller. Interestingly, Dr. Fearn was a coin collector. An analysis of his collection shows that he had many coins from Europe and a few from Japan and China. He had the most from Germany, ranging in dates from 1874-1927. His latest dated coin from Austria was 1925, from Great Britain 1922, and from Japan 1923. Assuming he collected the coins as he traveled, he was probably in Europe sometime between 1925 and 1929, and perhaps also visited Japan and China during this same period. During the 1930s Dr. Fearn often wrote of his debt to the work of Berczeller.
The earliest existing documents showing Dr. Fearn's interest in soy date from 1929. A letter of 6 June 1929 to W.L. Shellabarger of Decatur, Illinois, from the Soya Flour Manufacturing Co. (SFMC) in London, manufacturers of Berczeller's Soyolk whole soy flour stated that "in the near future two of our directors will be visiting America for the purpose of organizing a Company for the manufacture and distribution of Soyolk." On 17 October 1929 Lawrence Tweedy, a friend of Dr. Fearn's in London at Bernard, Scholle & Co. Ltd., wrote him a letter of introduction to a colleague at a company in New York. Dr. Fearn was in London at the time. The letter states:
The records of SFMC dated 31 December 1930 show that Dr. C.E. Fearn (of 18 Talbot Rd., London W.2) was a director of the company. In a subsequent document he was described as "Technical Manager," but his address was given as 523 East 16th St., Brooklyn, New York. he had been allotted 100 shares of stock, but by 31 December 1931 his name had disappeared from the list of directors. In 1933 SFMC changed its name to Soya Foods Ltd.
Dr. Fearn was probably referring to this period in his life when in 1937, he wrote to a fellow physician: "Some years ago in London (England) I treated a large number of these [infant] allergy cases with Soya as a substitute for milk, but I found it was essential to prepare it from a blend of [soy] beans, as these vary very considerably in the Amino-Acid values of the protein."
Soyex Co. and Fearn Soya Foods (1930-1939). There is clear evidence showing that in about 1930 a company named Soyolk Co., with whom Dr. Fearn was closely associated, began to make Soyex, a Berczeller-type whole soy flour in the United States (in Nutley, New Jersey). On 6 March 1931 the New York Times announced that the company name was changed from Soyolk Company, Inc. to Soyex Company, Inc. In 1933 Dr. A.A. Horvath, respected for his extensive knowledge of the soybean and soyfoods industries in both the US and Europe, and for his accurate reporting, while discussing Berczeller's excellent whole soy flour, wrote: "It is to the credit of the Soyex Company that this process was brought over to the United States, with the establishment in 1930 of a plant in Nutley, New Jersey." In the same article Horvath published a photograph of Dr. Fearn in the baking laboratory of the Soyex Company in Nutley. Supporting this development is the statement by Richard (1965) that "The Fearn process for Pure Soya Powder (now called Soya Powder--Full Fat) was perfected about 1930." These facts raise a number of interesting questions: (1) What was the relationship between the Soyex Company in New Jersey, the Soya Flour Manufacturing Company in London (whom Dr. Fearn represented as a Director on his trip to the US), and the Soyex Company which Dr. Fearn is said to have started in 1920 in New York? (2) Did the Soyex Company in New Jersey license its process to make Berczeller-type soy flour from Berczeller? (3) Did Dr. Fearn set up the company on his own and was that a cause of his being dropped as a Director of the Soya Flour Manufacturing Co. in London in 1931? In any case, by the mid-1930s the Soyex Co. (in USA ?? England ??) was making Soyex flour, pound cake, thickened salad dressing, Soyex chocolate drink, health cookies, sugared cookies,and soy-fortified bread. (?? Horvath??, Lager??, England??).
As Director of Soya Food Products, Dr. Fearn wrote several pamphlets describing his products. (All were, unfortunately undated. They were probably written during the early 1930s, certainly before August 1934.) A 15-page pamphlet titled "Original Recipes for the Use of Soyan in the Household" cautioned against the use of defatted soy flour and presented many recipes for Soyan whole soy flour. In "The Value of Soybeans as Human Food," published by the American Soybean Association and the Purdue Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. Fearn described the food value of soybeans and gave nine recipes for soy flour and twelve for soybeans. In January 1931 he wrote "A Food from the East Comes West." (ref??)
In his writings he was quite outspoken on several subjects. He believed that (1) soy flour made from whole, dehulled soybeans was vastly superior in flavor and nutritional value to defatted soy flour (he felt the latter should not be used for food), (2) the typical American diet contained far too much carbohydrates (both starches and sugars) and not enough protein, vitamins, and minerals (which soyfoods could offer), and (3) soy flour should be made from a blend of soybeans specially selected to give best flavor and amino acid combinations.
In 1934 Dr. Fearn sold Fearn Laboratories (probably then located at 701 N. Western Ave. in Chicago) to a new group of owners. Chief among them was probably Hugh Earl Allen who, at some date, bought 75% of the stock. Fearn Laboratories was incorporated on 1 August 1934 and following the incorporation Dr. Fearn turned over to Fearn Laboratories, Inc., the business known as Soya Food Products, and all its assets, etc. On 25 June 1935 Dr. Fearn resigned as an officer and director of Fearn Laboratories, Inc. and disposed of all his stock in the company. Apparently Dr. Fearn felt wronged by the transactions, for in 1947 a colleague of his referred to "the dirty double cross you received in 1935 from the old Fearn Laboratories . . . of course, greed on the part of the old bunch was at the bottom of it all." The new corporation began to de-emphasize soyfoods, moving into monosodium glutamate (MSG) and spice extracts. During World War II Fearn Laboratories made a soy pancake flour and some soy grit meat extenders. In 1945 the company was acquired by Northwestern Yeast Co., and by the late 1940s most production of soyfoods had been discontinued. In the early 1950s the name was changed to Fearn Foods Inc. and by 1962 the firm had moved to Franklin Park, Illinois. In 1967 or 1968 the name was changed again to Fearn International and in 1969 the company was acquired by the Kellogg Company, of Corn Flakes fame. In 1983 Fearn International in Franklin Park made a line of non-soy products such as soup bases, desserts, canned meats, and sauces, all for the institutional food market.
In 1935 Dr. Fearn established Fearn Soya Foods Company, located at 355 W. Ontario Street in Chicago (Soybean Digest, Nov. 1969). He probably did this because he had lost control of Soya Food Products to Fearn Laboratories in 1934. The relationship between Fearn Soya Foods Co. and Soyex Co. is not known, nor is it known how long Soyex Co. lasted, for we never hear of it again. The period from 1935 (when he was about 65 years old), to the mid-1940s was one of tremendous creativity and productivity for Dr. Fearn, and all the earlier ambiguity about when he started to do what should not obscure this clear fact. There is also good documentation for the period from 1935 on, based largely on existing company records. The earliest extant account shows that in July 1935 Fearn Soya Foods made a sale of Soya Flour; in August they made a sale of Solac (in tins), Diabetic Cereal, Soya Cereal, and Soya Flour. These and other of Dr. Fearn's soyfoods, together with their earliest known date of reference are shown in figure 41.1. His soya flour, a whole (full-fat) soy flour made by the Berczeller method from dehulled soybeans, may have been called Soyan and Pure Soya Powder in the early days; 1% Soyan was said to improve ice creams. Solac, a closely-related all-soy-flour infant formula, sold in cans, may also have been of earlier origin.
A number of undated pamphlets bear testimony of Dr. Fearn's promotional efforts during the period from about 1935-1938. In an eight-panel flyer "Your Children's Future Health and Happiness," and a ten-panel "The Soya Bean, and Its Value in our National Dietary" he sharply criticized the quality of defatted soy flour and noted that "it was not until 1930 that a really palatable and edible soya bean flour was first introduced (to the US) by Dr. Fearn," and described his growing line of products: Soya Cereal (whole wheat and soy, cooks in 8-10 minutes), Soya Cereal for Diabetics, Pure Soya Bean Flour (42% protein, 20.5% fat, starch free, alkaline ash), Proteinized Cocoa (a soy flour and cocoa protein drink), Soya Milk Powder or PMS (whole soy flour from dehulled soybeans, sweetened with honey or Karo syrup, for those allergic to cow's milk), Soya Date Breakfast Food (the soybeans taste like nuts; ready to eat), and Dr. Fearn's General Food (Concentrated) for Children and Adults ("It can be used either as a liquid food drink, or as a soda fountain drink, flavored with chocolate or malted milk.") A four-page flyer titled "SOY-O Cereal, Compared with Ordinary Cereals" discussed the food value of this alkaline product, and also described SOY-O Pancake Flour, Soya Milk Powder, and Whole Wheat and Soya Flour. In 1938 Dr. Fearn, billed as a "world renowned authority on the soybean," wrote the foreword to a booklet by Dr. N.A. Ferri titled Soybeans: The Wonder Food.
From 1937 on, most of Dr. Fearn's foods were sold to health food jobbers or health food stores or individual customers, many of them in the Midwest but a growing number in California, especially Los Angeles. His best selling products in 1938 were Soy-O (whole soy flour??), followed by Soy-O Pancake Flour and Soy-O Cereal. Dr. Fearn was slow to realize that his prime customers would be those in the steadily growing health foods industry. His basic marketing strategy had been to try to promote his products to his colleagues in the medical profession, but they consistently refused to accept them or his ideas about them. Those were the days when only "health nuts" talked about soybeans or their nutritional value. In about 1937 he had written a two-page circular for doctors titled "Infant Foods," in which he discussed Solac (containing primarily low-fat dried milk and soy flour) and Soya Cereal. To other physicians he wrote of Sotena: "The first cereal for infants containing complete protein and good for those allergic to milk, Rich in minerals, it contains 25% less starch than most cereals." In July 1937 he submitted P.M.S. (a powdered milk substitute made from finely ground whole soy flour) to the American Medical Association's Council on Foods for acceptance as an infant food. In April 1938 they denied the request, stating that his promotional materials did not conform to AMA guidelines. Apparently Dr. Fearn had made his own whole soy flour and grits in the early 1930s (perhaps at the Soyex plant in New Jersey), but by April 1937 he was buying large quantities (perhaps all) of these soy products from the Shellabarger Grain Products Company in Decatur, Illinois. By 1946 he had apparently switched from Shellabarger to Spencer Kellogg & Sons in Decatur, who continued to supply Fearn Soya Foods until about 1962. In each case, Dr. Fearn taught these milling companies how to make a high-quality whole soy flour.
A major tragi-comic dimension entered Dr. Fearn's business life in about 1936, when he began to sell his products to and through health food jobbers or distributors in Los Angeles. As a colleague at Battle Creek Scientific Foods wrote Dr. Fearn in mid-1937: "I do believe that it is a good move for you to go to California inasmuch as most of the health addicts are located there." In late 1935 one Malcolm McBride, an independent food broker, persuaded Dr. Fearn to let him set up a company in Los Angeles with the same name as Dr. Fearn's company, Fearn Soya Foods Co. He bought Dr. Fearn's products, repackaged them in bags bearing his address, then distributed and sold them throughout the greater Los Angeles area, largely to health food stores. By early 1937 business in LA was "booming," with single product sales reaching 200-500 pounds a week. Bestsellers were Soya Date Cereal, Soy-O Cereal, Soya Milk, and Viteen. The creative and good-tasting products developed by Dr. Fearn quickly inspired a number of imitations (see Chapter 46). Dr. Fearn was now relatively uninvolved with the day-to-day filling of orders and making of deals, which were handled by his sales manager, Bill ??
In June 1937 McBride hit upon the idea of Viana, one of America's earliest "scientific reducing diets." Based on Dr. Fearn's whole soy flour and a mixture of vitamins to provide much of the body's nutritional needs, Viana would be marketed to the fashionable Hollywood upper crust, interested in both slimming and health. In the stylish promotional material and product labels, with a nude silhouette prominently displayed, any references to soy were carefully omitted. The product was called Dr. Fearn's Viana Reducing Diet and the company was listed as The Viana Company, Hollywood, California: Malcolm McBride, Distributor. A three color brochure listed Dr. Fearn as the company's director and technical advisor. Directions for using this "scientific reducing diet" called for sprinkling Viana No. 1 (granules) over a slice of unsweetened pineapple or into 4 ounces of skimmed milk, or mixing 1 teaspoon of Viana No. 2 (fine flour) into 1/2 glass of water, carrot juice, or grapefruit juice. By late 1937 Viana was enjoying great success in Los Angeles. (In the 1960s a similar product, called Metrecal, became a nationwide success. It was based on soy protein isolates and flour plus nonfat dried milk.) By 1938 Vitona, a completely separate company had been founded in Los Angeles and was negotiating with Dr. Fearn to sell his products, repackaged under the "Dr. Fearn's . . . " label.
By mid-1938, however, disaster struck the happy scene. Success had gone to McBride's head. He set up his own company, McBride Products Company, and began manufacturing a line of products almost identical to those developed by Dr. Fearn, but now brand-named "Mary McBride"s Modern Nutrition." A fancy 12 by 17-inch three-color poster proudly announced the eleven products in his new line, "McBride's Soya Foods:" Soya Date Cereal, Soya Flour, Soya Powder, Soya Cereal, Soya Malt, Pure Soya Crusties, Soy Cocoa, etc. No mention was made of Dr. Fearn. Vitona urged Fearn to sue. Nelson?? of Vitona wrote Dr. Fearn of McBride's slanderous statements: "He stated explicitly that you were unreliable, that you didn't know your business, and that your products were not worth a damn . . . He moreover stated that you did not manufacture any of the merchandise you offer but bought it second hand and then distributed it . . . He told us that he had taught you all you knew about (your business) . . . It is my opinion that he is extremely illiterate, unprincipled, unscrupulous, and a damned poor business man." Dr. Fearn's sales in Los Angeles slumped but apparently he did not sue McBride. However in an attempt to recapture the Los Angeles health-diet market he introduced his own brand, Vitana. Imagine the poor Los Angeles dieter trying to choose between Viana, Vitona, and Vitana, all made from basically the same ingredients and bearing the same claims! By the late 1950s, McBride had gone out of business.
By the late 1930s, Dr. Fearn was well known to every major firm and researcher in the US soybean processing industry, and to many in Europe. He worked closely with Dr. J.A. LeClerc of the USDA, and played an important role in the great growth that took place in the industry during this dynamic decade.
Dr. Fearn in the 1940 U.S. census: As of 2 April 1940, Charles E. Fearn resides in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. He was age 62 in 1940; therefore his estimated birth year was about 1878. A white male, he was
born in England and is married (although there is no indication that he is living with his wife or anyone else in the household). He resides (alone) at 1147 North Wells Street. In 1935 he also resided in Chicago. He is not yet a citizen of the United States, although he has his "first papers." Note: Also called a Declaration of Intent, these are "The record by which an applicant for U.S, citizenship declared their intent to become a citizen and renounced their allegiance to a foreign government. Fearn is the proprietor of his business, a wholesale food products business, from which he receives no income. He i renting his home for $20 a month. He did not attend school in the previous year. but he had completed four years of college. He worked 60 hours per week, working on his own account (rather than as an employee for someone else). He had worked 52 weeks in the previous year. He had income from other sources.
1940-1959. World War II probably helped Fearn Soya Foods, whose product line was apparently shrinking. A 1942 USDA publication reported that the company, still at 355 W. Ontario St. in Chicago, was selling Soy-O Cereal and Soy-O Pancake Flour. Ads in the March 1942 Soybean Digest indicated that these were the company's two main (or only two) products.
In order to further promote soyfoods in America and to earn a little extra income, Dr. Fearn helped other companies get into soyfoods production during the 1940s, as he had helped Shellabarger during the late 1930s. He served as a consultant to Richard Thomas Jr. of Thomas & Associates to establish a company in Chicago called Soy Food Mills and to develop their first product, soy-fortified Golden Soy Griddle Cake Mix, which was identical to Dr. Fearn's Soy-O Pancake Mix. Essentially Thomas & Associates, which had a strong organization and financial backing, arranged with Dr. Fearn to purchase his formula and develop this product commercially, under the Doctor's ongoing supervision and consultation. Introduced in 1942, it soon became widely distributed and very successful, capturing about 7% of the pancake mix market in Chicago alone. Soy Food Mills developed a close financial relationship with Little Crow Milling Co. in Warsaw, Indiana, which was packaging the product. Soon a second product, Golden-Wheat Soy Mix was introduced. By 1943 Soy Food Mills was spending $900,000 a year to advertise its soy products. Golden Soy was so successful that Pillsbury Flour Mills later introduced and marketed a similar product in a similar package. Each company sued the other for trade mark infringement. The outcomes of the lawsuits are unknown.
After World War II Dr. Fearn wrote the USDA encouraging them to develop a low-cost soy fortified food for overseas famine relief. This they did, on a huge scale, although they did not use his products.
By 1947 Dr. Fearn was working with Harry Belleville in San Clemente (near Los Angeles) to develop a line of beef and chicken style soup base seasonings, in both liquid and paste form. Made by Fearn, Harry's Original Beef (and Chicken) Style Seasonings contained meat extracts, MSG, preservatives, and the like. During the late 1940s Fearn's bestsellers were Soy-O Cereal, Soy-O Pancake Flour, Soya Milk Powder, and Wheat & Soya Food. The pancake flour contained whole wheat flour.
During the last year of his life, Dr. Fearn became very ill and debilitated, losing lots of weight. For some reason he was put into a hospital in Elgin, Illinois (near Chicago), but his long-time friend Paul Richard struggled to get him out.
Dr. Fearn's Death Certificate: Charles Fearn (his full name) died on 31 July 1949 at the Elgin State Hospital, Elgin, Kane County, Illinois. The hospital, which treated both physical and mental diseases, was located at 750 South State St. in Elgin. He had been in the hospital for 11 days before his death. His place of residence (before entering the hospital) was 1421 N. Wieland St., Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. He was a white male, was not a veteran and had no Social Security Number. He was widowed. The name of his wife was Minnie. He was about age 68 when he died. The day and month that he was born are unknown, but he is said to have been born in 1880. Note: In the 1940 census, his year of birth was estimated as 1878. He was born in England, although the city and county of his birth are unknown. His usual occupation: Physician. His industry or business: General. The name and birthplace of his father and mother are unknown,. The informant for the above information: "Hospital Records, Elgin State Hospital, Elgin, Illinois." Place of burial or removal: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Westchester, Cook County, Illinois. Date of burial: Aug. 3. P.M. Smith Funeral Home in Elgin was in charge of the burial. The main cause of his death was "Arteriosclerotic heart disease" (a physical, not a mental, disease). Duration: Unknown. The doctor who attended him during the 11 days he was in the hospital, who last saw him alive, and who signed his medical certification of death was D. Louis Steinberg [Superintendent] of the State Hospital. Note: It seems surprising and unfortunate that Charles Fearn was not asked for more basic information when (or after) he entered the hospital, such as his date and place of birth, the names of his parents and some basic information about them, etc.
Dr. Fearn died without heirs. His business passed into the hands of the State of Illinois and in September 1949 Paul Richard purchased it for the nominal fee of $500, which shows how small it was at that time.
Dr. Fearn had dedicated his long and creative life to introducing whole soy flour and nutritious low-cost foods made from it, to the people of America and Europe. His major contribution was in the development of new products and product concepts at a very early date. He was a scientist, an inventor, and a physician at heart, not a businessman. He did not enjoy the business end of his work and he lacked good business sense, taking on more projects than he could see through to completion, trusting people more than he should have, jumping from one scheme to another and often getting hurt financially, traveling and consulting too much while not tending to his business. During the 1930s and 1940s he was forced for lack of money to vacate his home three times, and during those periods of hardship his close friend Paul Richard kindly took him into the Richard home at Oak Park, Illinois, like one of the family. Yet the validity of his ideas and products was proven by the degree to which they were imitated. Eventually others got much of the credit for ideas that were originally his.
The 1950s was a difficult decade to sell soyfoods or health foods in America. Paul Richard, whose basic work was selling flour for the Willis Norton Co. in Wichita, Kansas, ran Fearn Soya Foods as a side line with no employees, but with his sons (Elwood, Lou, and Bill) as frequent helpers, especially on weekends and during the summers. Two events made the early years especially difficult. First, just after Dr. Fearn's death his secretary, Rene, ran off with all the formulas to Dr. Fearn's products and many valuable company records. She claimed that they and the company were rightfully hers, since Dr. Fearn was intending to marry her. Paul Richard had to reconstruct all the formulas by having the products analyzed and by analyzing all past material purchases to try to get the proper proportions of ingredients. Second, most of the remaining company documents and many products were lost in a big flood in 1955 or 1956. In 1955 the company was moved to 1206 North 31st Ave. in Melrose Park, Illinois. After the loss of the records and believing that Dr. Fearn had been a true soyfoods pioneer, Paul Richard attempted to compile a short (one-page) history of his life and work. During the early 1950s Fearn Soya Foods had sold only four products: Soyo Pancake Flour (regular), Soyo Wholewheat Pancake Flour, Dr. Fearn's Wheat and Soya Food, and Dr. Fearn's Pure Soy Bean Milk Powder. By the late 1950s Paul Richard had added five more products: Soya Soy Bean Granules, High Lecithin Soya Powder, Low Fat (5%) Soya Powder, Corn Bread & Muffin Mix with Soya, and Organic Soybeans. Sales were mostly to health food jobbers.
1960-1980s. In 1960, when Paul Richard died, his son Elwood took over the business. Like his father, Elwood was very interested in the history of Dr. Fearn and his company. During the early 1960s he wrote many letters, trying to assemble more information, but little new was learned. So in 1963 he simply updated the earlier one-page history. In 1963 the American Mount Everest Expedition used three Fearn soyfoods in its successful assault on the world's highest peak: High protein Food, SOY-O Snacks, and SOY-O Wholewheat Pancake Mix. In 1968 Fearn Soya Foods moved to 4520 James Place in Melrose Park. By 1969 the company was selling 20 products containing soy, including pancake mix, wheat cereal plus soya, 47% protein drink mix, protein tablets, and soynuts. During the decade, sales roughly doubled or tripled, but by 1970 the company was still quite small, with sales of roughly $150,000 a year. In the late 1960s Elwood opened two health food retail stores; finding his interest lay there, he decided to sell the company to his older?? brother Lou.
In 1970 Lou Richard took over management of Fearn Soya Foods just as the natural foods movement was starting. After 1973 real growth started. The soyfoods product line was expanded; advertising and sales increased dramatically, especially starting in the late 1970s. At that time full-page ads were run in many natural- and health-food magazines for SOY-O Baking Mixes, including ten different mixes for pancakes, muffins, corn bread, and hot cereals--all enriched with whole soy flour, and most requiring the addition of milk and eggs. By 1980 there was a line of meatless burger mixes (sesame, brazil nut, sunflower), each containing soy grits as a major ingredient. Natural cake mixes used whole soy flour as a functional ingredient (to add moisture, brownness, fluffiness) and for protein complimentarity. Moreover, the company also sold consumer-sized boxes and bags of Natural Soya Powder (whole soy flour), Low-Fat (6%) Soya Powder, Soya Granules, Liquid Lecithin (soy), and soy protein isolates (for muscle builders and weight watchers). The whole soy flour used in many of these products was imported from Edelsoja GMBH in Germany, a company that Dr. Fearn's mentor, L. Berczeller, had helped to establish in 1932. (The equipment for Fearn to make this flour themselves would have cost $500,000 to $1,000,000.) Thus Fearn Soya Foods did not manufacture soyfoods (it had not done so since the 1930s), but it did develop new products, package, and market them. Its whole soy flour, for example, was packaged in polypropylene bags, flushed with inert nitrogen gas to drive out at least 98% of the oxygen, then heat sealed to help prevent rancidity in the flour's natural oils. Fearn's high-quality products, attractively packaged and extensively advertised, helped to give soyfoods widespread consumer exposure and a good image during the 1970s and early 1980s. At last Dr. Fearn's dreams were coming true.
In early 1982 the company changed its name to Fearn Natural Foods, to broaden its appeal and make it more modern sounding. But its commitment to soyfoods as basic products and product ingredients continued as ever.