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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s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

Loma Linda Foods has long been one of the major American producers of soymilk and of soy-based meat analogs.

Background. In 1903 the Seventh-day Adventist denomination officially ended its affiliation with the Battle Creek food manufacturing operations, leaving a need for an alternative supplier of healthful vegetarian foods. In the early 1900s, Seventh-day Adventists were working actively in Southern California in the areas of diet and health. In about 1902 the Southern California Conference opened a health food store and vegetarian cafeteria in San Diego. A sanitarium was opened at Paradise Valley near San Diego in 1904 and at Glendale in 1905. But the most important event of the period was the opening in 1906 of a major medical college, the Loma Linda College of Evangelists, located in the town of Loma Linda near Riverside, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. In 1910 the college became a medical school, the College of Medical Evangelists, the first medical school owned by the Adventist church. The American Medical Missionary College at Battle Creek had never been church owned and the need was felt for an alternative after its director, J.H. Kellogg, broke with the church in 1907.

Early Years (1906-37). The forerunner of Loma Linda Foods was The Sanitarium Food Company, which began operation in 1905 as the bakery for the new Loma Linda Sanitarium. It made a variety of freshly baked whole-wheat breads, healthful cookies, fruit crackers, and later breakfast cereals, supplying them to the college and, at a later date, to the hospital (Neufeld 1976). Loma Linda Foods traces its founding to 1906?? In 1907 demand for these products from residents of the growing community led to the construction of a separate building; this small, white-frame structure was located on Anderson Street across from the railroad station in Loma Linda. Soon business expanded and the company was selling a line of natural foods through health food stores and by mail order throughout the western United States. By the early 1930s gluten-based meat analogs, with formulas similar to those developed by Dr. J.H. Kellogg, were added to the line. On 6 February 1933 the firm's name was changed to Loma Linda Food Company, and in 1935 it became a perpetual nonprofit corporation. It is owned and operated by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

The early history of Loma Linda's development of soyfoods is somewhat unclear, since the company has no historical archives or early price lists. According to Charlotte Van Gundy Holmes (see Part 4, above), Loma Linda's first soyfood was Smokene, first produced in about 1921 as an imitation of the Smoein developed several years earlier by T.A. Van Gundy at La Sierra Industries in nearby La Sierra. The process was said to have been given or sold to Loma Linda by a former confidante of Van Gundy's. Loma Linda's next soyfoods were tofu, soymilk, and soy sandwich spread. According to Charlotte Van Gundy (personal communication 1981), in about 1933 or 1934 Loma Linda hired away the man who cooked Van Gundy's tofu and soymilk, Mr. Ransom Brown, by paying him better wages. Within a few weeks Loma Linda was making their first canned tofu (brand-named Vege-Cheese and containing pimiento like Van Gundy's), canned soymilk (called Loma Linda Soy Milk), and a stiff soy spread (called Loma Linda Soy Mince Sandwich Spread). Each of these products reportedly bore very close resemblance to soyfoods that had been developed and were then being manufactured by Van Gundy. According to Charlotte Van Gundy, her father had offered to give Loma Linda the formulas for these products if they would put in money to help develop them. Loma Linda manufactured these products for years thereafter. Interestingly no one at Loma Linda, including George Chapman, who was the first General Manager from 1937 knows how these early soyfoods originated. A Mr. Henry Meyer of Loma Linda is reported to have been involved in some soymilk development in about 1935 and by September 1936 Loma Linda Soy Milk and Mince Soy Sandwich Spread, plus canned Loma Linda Soy Beans (plain or with Proteena) were definitely being sold at health food stores in Los Angeles, including at one run by soyfoods pioneer Mildred Lager (see Chapter 69). They were listed in her catalog.

The New Plant (1938-1950). Demand for Loma Linda Foods quickly outgrew the small delivery truck service developed within a 125-mile radius of the plant, and when a 9-acre site for a new plant was donated by what was then Southern California Junior College (now La Sierra College), next to the school, in Arlington (now Riverside), the move was made. Ground breaking ceremonies for the building took place in November 1937 and the new four-story plant began operations on 16 July 1938, under the leadership of George T. Chapman, an Australian, who remained General Manager for the next 26 years, until 1963. In 1938 the company's main

product was Ruskets, a ready-to-eat flaked whole-wheat biscuit cereal. In 1934 a Loma Linda Soy Bean Wafer was added to the other soyfoods mentioned earlier. Soon a number of new non-soy meat analogs were added to the line; Proteena and Nuteena, made primarily from wheat gluten and peanuts, resembled products developed by Kellogg at Battle Creek. Located next to the college, the company had a built-in work force. After 1938 hundreds of college students helped to pay their school bills by working part time at Loma Linda Foods.

During World War II, with the growing interest in soyfoods in America, the company added a number of these foods to its product line. A 1943 price list shows Loma Linda selling Soy Milk, Mince Sandwich Spread, Soy Beans (in both jars and canned), Breakfast Cup (a roasted grain and soy coffee substitute), plus crackers, and malted products. By 1944 it had added tofu (which it was still making in 1961), soy fortified cereals, and Proteina (a new formulation and spelling of Proteena??), a meat analog now containing soy. By 1945 it had added soy flour and soy sauce, both made by other companies but sold by Loma Linda under their own brand. Sales grew very rapidly during World War II, almost doubling in the first 6 months of 1943.

The 1950s. On 1 January 1951 Loma Linda Foods took over the business of Dr. Harry Miller's International Nutrition Laboratories, Inc. at Mt. Vernon, Ohio (see Part 5, above), which produced a full line of soyfoods, their most popular products being Soyalac soymilk, followed by canned fresh green soybeans and tofu (Vege-chee). Charles Percy Miles was named manager of the Ohio company, where many of the former products (excepting those sold to Worthington) continued to be made. This acquisition strengthened Loma Linda Foods and expanded their product line. In 1951 a Soyagen soymilk for adults was added to the line. It was sold in both liquid and powdered forms. In 1952 Dorothea Van Gundy (the daughter of soyfoods pioneer T.A. Van Gundy and later co-author of the best-selling Soybean Cookbook; Jones 1963) went to work for Loma Linda Foods (actually for the International Nutrition Research Foundation, established by Dr. H. Miller) as a dietitian and food demonstrator. She played a prominent role in the introduction of Loma Linda's soyfoods until her retirement in 1972 (see Part 8, above). In 1956 the company began publishing a newsletter Today's Food, which carried extensive information on soyfoods and vegetarian diets and was widely circulated.

The 1960s. By the 1960s Loma Linda Foods and Worthington Foods were America's two largest producers of soyfoods for the retail trade. In 1962 the company, feeling expansive, established a Canadian division at Oshawa, Ontario, on a site donated by Oshawa Missionary College (now Kingsway College). Frank L. Wessely was appointed general manager. This operation was closed in 1965. C.P. Miles became general manager of Loma Linda Foods from 1963-1973. In 1964, according to Today's Food, Loma Linda was marketing 25 products containing soy, including VegeBits, Soy Flour, VegeChee, Smokene, Soybeans Boston Style, Soyagen (all purpose or malt), Soy Sauce, RediBurger, and Dinner Cuts. By 1966 Loma Linda made six types of soymilk: Soyagen, liquid or powdered in malt, carob, or plain flavors; Multigen (newly introduced), Hi-So-Pro (powdered soymilk ideal for diabetics, low in fat, salt, and carbohydrates); and Instagen (from fortified soy protein isolates).In 1966 C.P. Miles was issued a patent on a new soymilk process (US patent 3,288,614), that was subsequently used to produce Soyalac until it was further modified in the mid-1970s.

In 1966, when the company celebrated its 60th anniversary, it had some 300 workers and nearly 100 salesmen producing and distributing more than 36 tasty products under the Loma Linda Foods label--all developed for the betterment of health through better nutrition.

In 1960? Worthington Foods, Loma Linda's main competitor, had made the world's first meat analog (Fry-Chik?) with spun soy protein fiber. This was considered a major technological breakthrough in the vegetarian protein foods field, and the quality of this and subsequent products was considered good. Loma Linda decided to try to follow Worthington's lead and in the late 1960s they began buying spun soy protein fiber from Worthington and using it to make meat analogs; they have never made this fiber themselves. By 1968 they had introduced their first products made from Worthington's spun soy protein fiber: in 14-ounce cans were Chicken-like Slices, Beef-like Slices, Turkey-like Slices, and Luncheon-like Slices; in frozen 1-or-2-pound packages were meatless Chicken Slices, Beef Slices, Turkey Slices, and Luncheon Slices. Other new products in the late 1960s containing soy included soy fortified cereals (Ruskets and Ruskets Crunchy).

The 1970s and 1980s. Introduction of new products accelerated during the 1970s. By 1972 the company had introduced four new canned products made from the spun protein fiber: Meatless Chicken Loaf, Meatless Beef Loaf, Meatless Turkey Loaf, and Meatless Luncheon Loaf. Chicken Style and Beef Style were soon available in canned and frozen forms. Meatless Chicken, Meatless Roast Beef, and Meatless Turkey were introduced in 1974, Meatless Bologna in 1975, Meatless Fried Chicken in 1976, Meatless Sizzle Burgers and Meatless Swiss Steak in 1978, and Meatless Sizzle Franks in 1979. All were frozen and generally contained artificial flavors, artificial colors, caramel and dextrose. In the early 1970s the company began to get feedback from salesmen and consumers that the line had basic problems: the flavors, textures, and packaging designs were generally considered to be somewhat inferior to those of similar products made by Worthington; some products tended to fall apart when cooked; and the institutional-size packages were too large for the retail market, where they were widely sold. Adjustments were made with the introduction in the late 1970s of Meatless Swiss Steaks, Fried Chicken, and Sizzle Franks, each sold in both canned and frozen forms. The quality of these, each of which contained soy, was considered greatly improved and sales increased sharply. Starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Loma Linda began to place attractive full-page ads in nationwide magazines read by those interested in alternative lifestyles and healthful or meatless diets.

As of 1981 Loma Linda was marketing eight frozen meat analogs containing soy and three canned meat analogs. The frozen products were Meatless Sizzle Burgers, Meatless Fried Chicken, Meatless Chicken, Meatless Bologna, Meatless Roast Beef, Meatless Turkey, Griddle Steaks, and Ocean Fillets. The canned products were Meatless Swiss Steak, Fried Chicken, and Sizzle Franks. The best sellers were the Meatless Sizzle Burgers, Meatless Fried Chicken, and Meatless Swiss Steaks. Other soy products sold by Loma Linda in 1981 included Vitaburger and Vitaburger Chunks (Archer Daniels Midland TVP repackaged), Chili Beans with Vita-Burger, canned Soybeans (Boston Style and Plain), Soyagen (liquid soymilk, all purpose, no sucrose, or carob flavored), Soyalac, and i-Soyalac (made from soy protein isolate) infant formula.

On 1 April 1980 a momentous change took place in Loma Linda Foods; the management and control was quietly transferred to the Adventist-run Sanitarium Health Foods Company of Australia. In a provocative article discussing the worldwide Adventist health food industry, Adventist Harrison John (1981) noted that although the company had more than doubled its sales between 1977 and 1980, the capital needed for expansion was not available. Between 1975 and 1978, the company's net worth had decreased from $458,000 to $129,000, and during those four years there had been net operating losses totaling over $1.3 million. Eric Howse, former director of the Adventist World Foods Service, described the changeover as basically a "rescue effort" by the well-run Australian firm to make Loma Linda Foods a more significant and viable operation. The Australians were expected to run the company more like a business and less like a division of the church, and to shift the emphasis strongly away from meat analogs and vegetable proteins toward the more mainline and lucrative (yet hard to crack) breakfast cereal market, a market dominated by some of America's most powerful food corporations: Kellogg (42% of the market), General Mills (20%), General Foods (15%), Quaker Oats (9%), and others (including Nabisco and Ralston Purina, 14%).

Thus, as of late 1981, the future of Loma Linda's work with soyfoods and meat analogs remained uncertain--at a time when there was the greatest interest in America's history in both meatless diets and in soyfoods.