Small Adventist Food Companies and Sanitariums: 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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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

Since as early as 1921 and perhaps earlier, although generally starting in the 1930s, soyfoods were produced at the various Adventist denominational sanitariums and at a number of small food companies run by Adventist businessmen; only the main ones are listed here. Almost every sanitarium had a whole-grain bakery and retorting equipment for making meat analogs in its kitchen. In many cases early production was very limited and analogs were based on wheat gluten. The heyday of these early operations was 1895 to 1915. Many on the initial food staffs had trained with Dr. Kellogg at Battle Creek. Each sanitarium developed its local products, in part because of distribution problems, in part to provide financial support for the evangelistic-humanitarian goals of the sanitariums, and in part because Ellen White encouraged decentralization and disliked powerful monopolies. Foods were provided first to patients, then sold by mail order to patients and friends who had returned home, then retailed in the surrounding community, and finally, in some cases, distributed regionally or nationwide. Through these operations, thousands of people were introduced to soyfoods. The main reasons for ceasing production were competition from similar products or restrictive government regulations. Neufeld (1976) has given a brief history and sketch of each of the denominational institutions, those owned and run by the Adventist church.

The companies and sanitariums are listed here in chronological order of their estimated opening date, which is followed by the date they ceased operation. Unless it is specifically stated, it is not known for sure which foods contained soy.

Boulder Sanitarium Food Co. (1897--1945??; Boulder, Colorado; Denominational). Both the sanitarium and the health food factory started in about 1897. They made many of the same meat analogs as Battle Creek Foods and Madison Foods. In 1912 a health food store was operating in Denver and at times outlets were distributing the foods in other cities. In 1981 the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium Association was operating health food centers in several states. The sanitarium, renamed Boulder Memorial Hospital in 1962, was still in operation in 1984.

St. Helena Sanitarium Food Co. (1898--1918; St. Helena, California; Denominational). Opened by John Burden in conjunction with the St. Helena Sanitarium (which started in about 1878 as the Rural Health Retreat), this company initially produced whole-wheat bread. In 1901 the building was enlarged to four stories and new products included Nut Loaf meat substitutes, Nut Cero, Granola, peanut butter, flaked cereals, and unfermented grape juice. The Sanitarium is now called St. Helena Hospital.

New England Sanitarium (1899--1957??; Stoneham, Massachusetts; Denominational). For many years the sanitarium made meat substitutes, then started using soy in about 1923. They eventually sold the food company to a father and son, who marketed the products under the NESPAK brand. The sanitarium is still in operation (renamed New England Memorial Hospital) 9 miles north of Boston; the food company is not.

Washington Sanitarium (1907--19??; Takoma Park, Maryland; Denominational). As early as 1915 they were producing meat analogs (Nuttose, Protose) for the patients. In about 1921 Dr. Harry Miller and his son, Willis, made experimental batches of tofu on the sanitarium farm and processed it in the small sanitarium food plant by mixing it with peanuts. In 1923 the sanitarium started to use soy flour in meat analogs. In 1925 a small soy dairy was established and Dr. Harry Miller made experimental soymilk. Meat analogs were being made as late as 1938. In 1973 the name was changed to the Washington Adventist Hospital.

Nebraska Sanitarium (1930??--1955??; Lincoln, Nebraska; Denominational). They produced a line similar to that of Battle Creek Foods and Madison Foods??

Hillcrest Health Products Co. (1932??--1955??; Takoma Park, Maryland; rivate). In 1943 this company made canned fresh green soybeans, a soy coffee substitute, tofu, soy flour, meat analogs, soymilk, soy oil, and sandwich spreads. They sold dry soybeans and soy sauce. Located at 120 Carroll Ave.

Butler Food Products (1939--1946; Cedar Lake, Michigan; Private). This creative company was founded in 1939 by Howard O. Butler and run primarily as a family enterprise. Butler got interested in soyfoods from people he knew at Madison Foods. He hired people with prior experience in soyfoods production; Howard Hoover (who made soymilk with Dr. Miller in East Asia) and a Mr. Roose. An initial aim of the business was to offer jobs for Adventist youth to pay their tuition at nearby Cedar Lake Academy, although the business was not formally connected with the Academy. The company's primary product, first produced in 1942, was "Soya Butter," actually what we would now call soy margarine; it contained 79% lightly hydrogenated soy oil, soymilk (18% by weight), salt, vitamin A carotene (as a natural coloring), and butter flavor. The melting point was 110░F (43░C). Butler advertised the product as being nonfattening.

He soon ran into problems with the government concerning his Soya Butter. In August 1944 the Soybean Digest reported that, "H.L. Hoover, manager of the firm, claims that he is the victim of conflicting federal and state regulations, and that he cannot comply with one set of regulations without violating others. Hoover points out that while the Food & Drug Administration prohibits his company from labeling the product oleomargarine without the addition of dairy products to it, the Bureau of Internal Revenue classifies it as oleomargarine for taxing purposes." Margarine was then defined as vegetable oils churned with dairy milk; Butler used soymilk in place of dairy milk to give a completely vegetarian product. Furthermore it was claimed by the Bureau of Dairying in Lansing, Michigan, that the product had been illegally colored in imitation of butter, and in several instances had been sold as butter. In August 1944 cases were pending in circuit and US courts, awaiting trial. In May 1945 a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ruled that Butler's Soya Butter was not taxable as margarine and should not be labeled as margarine, but shortly thereafter the Ohio Department of Agriculture, in variance with the federal ruling, classified Soya Butter as colored margarine, which could not be sold legally in Ohio. In June 1945 the American Soybean Association came out in favor of a congressional bill to define soya butter as being distinct from margarine. Finally in December 1945, at which time the company was manufacturing 100,000 units of Soya Butter a month, a federal judge in Detroit ruled that the product was oleomargarine as defined by the internal revenue code, and therefore subject to back taxes of 10 cents a pound on every pound made to date. The three-year battle and the ruling assessing an estimated $150,000 in back taxes drove the company out of business in 1946. In about 1950, while typing out an appeal to the government to reconsider his case, Butler suffered a fatal heart attack. Shortly after his death, the margarine law was changed and the tax (on other companies) removed.

During the early 1940s, Butler Foods was a thriving operation. In early 1942 they were making a nice line of nine soyfoods including ready to eat Soy-Fruit & Nut Cereal (with figs, dates, and bran), ViM-eat Soy-Nut-Loaf, ViM Soy-Nut Cheese, Soy-Kawfee, Entire Soy Bean Flour (i.e., full-fat), Entire SoyBean Wheat Flour Mix (70:30), SoyBeans with Tomato Sauce, ViM-ilk (soymilk) and Soy-Nuts. An attractive brochure describing the products and giving recipes noted that some of the soybeans were "grown on Butler's own mineralized farm." In mid-1942 Soya Butter was added to the line. The company also made bulk soymilk for use in its Soya Butter. In September 1943 Butler Foods ran a full-page ad in the _Soybean Digest headlined "New Foods from the Wonder Bean" showing pictures of cans of Butler's Soynut Cheese, Vegeburger, Soya Nut-Loaf, Soya Butter, and Vegetarian Chops. The Chops, his most popular meat analog, were a blend of wheat gluten and soy flour, sliced, pre-cooked, then canned in a broth made of soy sauce and other savory seasonings. A September 1945 ad showed that Butler's Meatlike had been added to the line.

After the government tax ruling of 1946, Cedar Lake Academy leased Butler's property and tried to operate the food business for 2 years, but the plant was too big and the company had now lost its vital income from sales of Soya Butter. The Academy food business ceased operation in 1949. The supervisor at that time, Vesper Sias, who had worked at Butler Foods since 1942, then left and started his own company, Cedar Lake, in November 1949.

Sunnydale Academy Foods (1946--1968; Centralia, Missouri; Denominational). This food company was started as an industry for students at the Sunnydale Academy in 1946. They made a gluten-based line of foods, very similar to those from Madison, with lots of creative names. When they closed in 1968, Cedar Lake Foods bought their names and recipes. The academy is still in operation.

Cedar Lake Foods (1949---; Cedar Lake, Michigan; Private). In 1949 when the Cedar Lake Academy ceased operating the former Butler Foods, Vesper Sias, a former employee of both companies, purchased the name Cedar Lake Foods and the food manufacturing rights from the Academy. He then started a business in rooms on the back of his home, working on a kitchen scale with his wife, making meatless products similar to those developed by Butler Food Products. The line started with Vegetarian Chops (like a veal cutlet with a savory soy sauce), Vegeburger, Soynut Cheese (whole soaked soybeans and nuts milled together, slurried, then cooked down to form a spreadable or sliceable loaf), Soynut Loaf, and Meatlike. They also made tofu. In 1959 the business expanded into a newly constructed plant, and four workers were kept busy meeting a growing demand and adding new products such as meatless frankfurters. Sias soon opened a storefront in his plant where all of his products were retailed (Grand Rapids Press 1962). In 1968 Cedar Lake bought the production of Sunnydale Foods of Centralia, Missouri. At the same time, Sias purchased the canning division of Lange Foods. The products Turkettes, Hostess Cuts, VegeBits, Lentil Roast, and Breakfast Links were added to the Cedar Lake line. In 1975, after several months of illness, Sias sold Cedar Lake Foods (which employed 26 people and had $500,000 yearly sales) to a corporation of five stockholders, who operated the business as Cedar Lake Foods Inc. of Tennessee. In the spring of 1981 the business, after being closed for 6 months, was sold to Country Life Natural Foods, a non-profit corporation and self-supporting Adventist group that made other vegetarian health food items such as nut butters, pastas, and juices, and ran several natural food restaurants. Many of the new company's foods contained soy products. TSF (textured soy flour) and soy sauce were used in the Vegeburger. Defatted soy flour was used in the Soynut Loaf. And soy sauce was the only soyfood used in the Hostess Cuts, Sloppy Joe, Vege-Bits, Chops, and Chipettes. Wheat gluten served as the primary ingredient in most of the products. In March 1981 a typical 19-ounce can retailed for $1.75-$1.95. The plant continued to be located in Cedar Lake, Michigan, near the original Cedar Lake Academy, founded in 1898.

Lange Foods (1950--1968; Portland, Oregon; Private). A one-man operation making Lange's Chops and other gluten-based meat analogs, which contained but little soy. In 1968 the food production business was sold to Cedar Lake. In 1981 the company was still a wholesale health food distributor.

Sovex Natural Foods (1953---; Collegedale, Tennessee; Private). Foundedin 1953 in Holly, Michigan by the Hurlingers, this company's original product was Sovex, a flavor concentrate paste made from a mixture of brewer's yeast and soy sauce. In 1964 John Goodbrad bought the business and moved it to Collegedale, Tennessee. In 1981, products containing soy included Prothin Snack Chips, Vege-Pat (textured soy flour) in sausage, burger, and chili flavors, and Granola (their main product) in nine flavors, many of which contained soy grits.

Texas Protein Sales (1972---; Keene, Texas; Private). Founded by Frank Miller, formerly in the sales department at Madison Foods. He buys TSF from Cargill, Staley, and Central Soya, then distributes it to meat plants. Also doing survival or disaster foods. Not a manufacturer.

Millstone Foods (1977---; Penryn, California; Private). Founded and run by Ken Innocent, who formerly worked in the personnel department at Worthington Foods. Canned products containing soy include Burger-Like, an imitation ground beef of TSF in a rich broth, Dehydrated Vegetarian Stew with TSP, and Tender Cuts (a gluten patty containing a little soy flour). Products contain no MSG, but some contain HVP (hydrolyzed vegetable protein).