History of Griffith Laboratories: Work with Soyfoods

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


ęCopyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

16 March 1985. Talk with Lou Sair

Griffith Laboratories was founded in 1918 by a salesman of bakery supplies named Enoch L. Griffith. The main first product was Aquatex, a gelatinized starch sold to the bakery trade. The company specialized in bakery supplies. His son C??.L. Griffith is still alive, age 92, and still active in the business.

Lou Sair was born and raised in Canada?? He graduated from the University Manitoba with BS and MS degrees in Cereal Chemistry, then got a PhD from McGill University (McDonald College). After working at the National Research Council on a meat problem, then Ogilvie Flour Mills and the Corn Industries Research Foundation in Missouri (on starch and cereals) he went to work for Central Soya in about 1940-41?? and began his first research on soy. After World War II started egg albumin was selling for $5 a pound. Glidden had produced a whipping compound called Albusoy and another company named Soyco?? had produced another whipping compound (what brand name??). The Regional Soybean Industrial Products Laboratory in Urbana, Illinois (after 1942 called the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, played a leading role in the research on whipping compounds. Sair recalls that Albusoy was a lousy product (why??) so at Central Soya Sair was assigned the job of coming up with a good whipping compound. He made isolated soy protein, then used a pepsin digestion to convert the isolate to a (fat free) compound that whipped nougats and candy very well. Used in cakes, it rose beautifully during baking, then collapsed, since it was not denatured by heat. This product, called Soy Whip, was of excellent quality and in 1942?? it was commercialized. During the 2 years that Sair was at Central, no one thought that soy isolates might have a place in human foods, or in the food supply, other than in frills such as whipped toppings. So no thought of sausages or breakfast cereals, etc.

In 1942 Sair was fired, and Gunther took over what?? The research on whip toppings?? Soy Whip continued to be a vaible commercial product, sold to good candy accounts. Then 2-3 years later (actually 1949) Dale McMillan, the old man, decided that there was no future in vegetable proteins at Central Soya so he shut down the whole operation and sold the rights to the whipping compound to Ken Gunther, who then operated it for many years until Staley bought it. Did he every improve it technically?? Or just left it as it was?? He just kept making it. He and his brother had money. He didn't expand much. Till Staley bought it. Its still a very small thing.

In 1950 Sair and Rathman (both from Central Soya) were issued a patent on an improved process for making a soy-based whipping agent. He thinks he got 2-3 patents at Central Soya on Soy Whip. Another author on one may have been Mr. Turner, a salesman.

In 1943?? Sair went to work for Griffith Laboratories, where he worked in many areas. He got over 50 patents at Griffith. He thinks he has more patents as a food chemist than anyone in USA. Griffith is involved in almost everything. But his mind kept going back to the work he did at Central. Griffith had a big business in binders for sausage products, so he began to wonder if they couldn't use a soy protein in sausages. Since Griffith was not a soybean crusher, nor a manufacturer of isolates (which have a very low yield and cause major waste disposal problems), he hit on a very simple idea called the "isoelectric (water) wash process" (versus the "alcohol extraction process") to make a soluble soy protein concentrate (as they named it). Were you the first to use this term?? The yield was 70%. Sair got the first patent. He began working on development of such a product in about 1946-47??. This was long before Sidney Circle began working on this at Glidden (note at Glidden; Circle's was insoluble with an alcohol wash. It has a sandy texture, a completely different product. Extracting the sugars from soy with alcohol denatures the protein, so it has no emulsifying properties. Its a filler with good nutritional properties. But it has little functional value.

The Griffith process started with defatted?? soy flour, purchased from the A.E Staley Mfg. Co., who sold them several hundred million pounds over the years. Was this a flour specially tailored flour for Griffith. The protein was extracted from the flour with alkali??, the pH lowered to 4, the sugars washed out with water, the protein neutralized with ??, and then the protein was spray dried. The Nitrogen Solubility Index of the protein was 70%. A pound of the concentrate would do about the same job in terms of binding power as an isolate but it was much less expensive.

They went to the USDA and, after a long process, in 195?? got the first approval to use soy protein concentrate in sausage at the ?? percent level. In 1959?? Griffith Laboratories introduced America's first commercial food-grade soy protein concentrate. The demand was so great for their small production... At that time Griffith was also manufacturing a lot of sodium caseinate. They couldn't supply the market for caseinate for some applications. So Sair went to Glidden and bought some isolate. Sair thinks they were the first company that bought an isolate with the intention of putting it into a food. But the taste was so terrible (it was high in sulfur from their paper coatings), that it almost ruined a few Griffith accounts. Griffith bought large quantities then gave it up because it was absolutely useless as food. Griffith was using the isolate before it was modified (ask Meyer).

Years later Ralston went to Griffith and asked to purchase a license on their concentrate. Griffith refused.

In the 1920s Griffith Labs got involved with manufature of hydrolysates at their East Coast plant in Newark, New Jersey. Initially everything was made from wheat gluten. In about 1965?? they began to hydrolyze soy. George Inglett was in charge, under Sair for 2-3 years doing research hydrolysates. Now at NRRC. This greatly expanded their HVP production

One of Griffith's most interesting stories is in textured soy proteins. One of Sair's patents may even be before ADM's TVP. He made what is called a "structured protein." Are are many patentsd on it (Please tell me the 2-3 most important??). In 1970-73?? Sair named it GSVP (Griffith Structured Vegetable Protein). It is made by a controlled extrusion process; controlled the pressure along the line of extrusion and at exit from the die, to give a structure. He thinks it is a greatly superior product to TVP but Griffith has not marketed it properly. Its a structured soy flour. The structured concentrate was/is?? called GSPC, but that had a limited market. They still sell a fair amount of GSVP, but the market completely died in many of those areas. They got caught like everyone else.

Everybody was predicting hundreds of millions of pound of textured products to be used in the near future.

Ken Gunther arrived at Central Soya before Lou left.

Albusoy was made by an alkaline digestion. It had very poor properties and died rather rapidly.

The man who started the soy protein program at CS before Sair arrived was probably E.B. Oberg (call him again??). He worked for Glidden before going to CS, where he worked from 1939-1943. Did he start the program?? Main products?? Why leave?? Why did Central abandon the program in 1949.

Home: 9100 S. Sacramento, Evergreen Park, IL 60642. Tel. 312-422-2033.

When Sair gets back to Chicago he can get me the precise answers for all questions.

Q. Which patents are the most important that describe the concentrate process??

He'll be back in Illinois by April 20. He may show the whole thing to Dean Griffith. They'll try to put more effort into it to making it nice.

I need documents.