History of Soynuts, Soynut Butter, Japanese-Style Roasted Soybeans (Irimame) and Setsubun (with Mamemaki) (1068-2012)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-53-2

Publication Date: 2012 Dec. 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 1336

Earliest Reference: 1068

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What are soynuts and soynut butter?

      Soynuts are like roasted peanuts, but made from whole soybeans – which can be either oil roasted (deep fried, for best flavor) or dry roasted (for low calories and, in some cases, low cost of production). Soynut butter is like peanut butter, but made from soynuts – that are usually oil roasted.
Roasted soybeans East and West:
      Roasted soybeans are not widely consumed as food in East Asia. They are most widely used as food in Korea, where they are called pokŭn k’ong and are widely sold in supermarkets and other food stores (Park 2012).
      In Japan they were traditionally consumed on a very small scale as the core of candies, covered with sugar. Such candies were described and photographed in 1929 and 1930 in Japan and Manchuria by Dorsett and Morse.
      We have never seen them mentioned in cookbooks. They are widely eaten only in Japan, once a year, during the festival of setsubun, on the last day of the lunar year, when they are used to drive out evil / devils. These dry-roasted soybeans are called irimamé, and the act of scattering soybeans is called mamemaké in Japanese.
      Only in the Western world (and especially in the United States) have soynuts been developed to realize their full potential – in both oil-roasted and unique dry-roasted forms.
      Moreover, soynut butter is a uniquely American invention, designed as an alternative to peanut butter – itself an American invention. During the past decade, soynut butter has increased dramatically in popularity as deadly allergies to peanuts among a tiny percentage of the population have steadily increased. Many schools are now reluctant to take the risk of serving peanut butter in school lunch programs, and some have introduced soynut butter in its place.
Brief chronology of soynuts and soynut butter.
1058-1068 – The word irimamé (dry roasted soybeans) first appears in the Shin Sarusakuki [New monkey play story] by Fujiwara no Akihira in Japan.
1082 – In Zhenglei Bencao [Reorganized pharmacopoeia], compiled by Tang Shenwei, dry roasted soybeans appear to be mentioned. Concerning the soybean, it states: You can roast / fry (chao) them to give nuts (guo; soynuts).
1250 – The word irimame appears in the Tsutsmi Chūnagon Monogatari [A collection of 11th century short stories of Japan] which appeared in Japan during the period mid-11th to mid-13th century.
1690Jinrin kinmô zui [Illustrated encyclopedia of life in the Edo period, Japan] mentions setsubun – the annual festival on the evening of the last day of winter, just before the first day of spring, also celebrated by some as New Year's Eve – according to the old lunar calendar) and roasted soybeans (iri-mame). On page 291 is an illustration titled Yaku-harai (driving out bad luck).
1702 – The word mamemaki first appears in the Kaki Hyōshi which appeared in Japan in 1702.
1830? – An undated Japanese woodblock print, titled Eho kaho fuku no iri-mame [Lucky casting of soybeans completed at a fortunate compass point] shows a man throwing roasted soybeans.
1877 Jan. – Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt (of Vienna), in a German-language article titled Der Anbau der rauhhaarigen Sojabohne [The culture of the hirsute soybean] states: "Soybeans roasted at 160°F taste delicious and surpass all other plants that have heretofore been used as coffee substitutes."
1882 – In the book Young Americans in Japan: or, The adventures of the Jewett family and their friend Oto Nambo, by Edward Greey, Chapter 20, “Japanese New Year’s festivities” contains a detailed story about setsubun and the role of roasted soybeans in the annual festival – the earliest known description of these things in English.
1887A Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionary. Abridged by the author. Second edition. Revised and enlarged, by James C. Hepburn contains the following early definitions:
      Irimame: Parched peas [sic, parched soybeans = soynuts].
      Mamemaki: The ceremony of scattering parched beans [parched soybeans] about to drive out evil spirits on the last evening of the old [lunar] year.
      Toshi-koshi: The crossing from the old to the new year; the ceremonies observed on the last day of the year,... when parched beans [parched soybeans] are scattered after sundown to drive off noxious influences and evil spirits. The parched beans used this evening, if kept and eaten when the first thunder of the new year is heard, are supposed to protect against lightning.
      Tsui-na (oni yarai): The ceremony of driving evil spirits out of the house by scattering parched [soy] beans about on the last evening of the old year.
1890 – In Chutia Nagpur, British India, the soybean is “generally used roasted and ground as satu, or simply roasted in the form of ata” (A Dictionary of the Economic Products of India, by George Watt. Vol. 3, p. 509-11).
1891Things Japanese: Being notes on various subjects connected with Japan... 2nd ed. revised and enlarged, by Basil Hall Chamberlain, in the section on “Festivals” contains a long description (p. 154) of setsubun and [roasted soy] beans.
1895 Feb. – Roasted soybeans are first mentioned in a German-language document. O.J. Kellner, who lived and taught in Japan, calls them geröstete Sojabohnen.
1912 April – Roasted soybeans are first mentioned in a French-language document. Li Yu-ying, the Chinese-born soybean pioneer living in France, calls them graines de soja grillés.
1912 – A full-page ad by The Ohmiya Co. of San Francisco (in Nichi-Bei Nenkan [Japanese-American Yearbook] No. 8) proclaims that the company is selling irimame [roasted soybeans / soynuts]. This is the earliest document seen showing that roasted soybeans are now available in North America; they were probably imported from Japan.
1929 May – In the log of their expedition to East Asia, P.H. Dorsett and W.J. Morse give a detailed description, with many photos, of the many kinds of roasted soybean confections found in Japan. They first use the term “candied soybeans.”
      Another set of descriptions, including setsubun and roasted soybeans, is given in Feb. 1930 and Feb. 1931 in Japan.
1929 Nov. – La Sierra Industries of Arlington, California (founded and owned by T.A. Van Gundy, a Seventh-day Adventist) introduces La Sierra Soy B-Nuts or Beanuts (Parched Soy Beans) – the first commercial soynuts made in the United States.
      That same year the company introduces La Sierra Soy Bean Butter (later renamed B-Nut Butter) – the world’s earliest known commercial soynut butter! This is the earliest known use of the term “Soy Bean Butter” in English to refer to a product that resembles peanut butter.
1935 – Charles W. Nelson completes the earliest known academic thesis on soynuts, titled “Soynut spread from soybeans” (BSc thesis, Chemical Engineering, Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa). In it he coins the word “soynut” (written as one word, singular) in English. He also coins the term “soynut spread” to refer to soynut butter.
1936 Jan. – Soy Bean Products Co. of Chicago, Illinois, launches Soyettes – dry roasted soybeans.
1937 Feb. – Reymond Baking Co. of Waterbury, Connecticut, introduces Soyette Honey Bread (made with Soyettes). An ad in the Hartford Courant on Feb. 9 announces: "The bread that peps you up! Made from Soyettes – The superior soy nut."
1937 Sept. – The word “soynuts” (written as one word, plural) first appears in an English-language document in an ad by the Soy Bean Products Co. (Proceedings of the American Soybean Association, p. 76).
1937 Nov. – Radcliffe Soya Products of San Francisco, California, in an ad for “Radcliffe's 38 Assorted Soya Alkaline Foods,” announces Radcliffe's Soya Butter – a soynut butter which resembles Peanut Butter).
1940 June – Penna Soy Products of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, introduces Toasted Soy Nut Butter. This is the earliest known use of this modern-sounding term.
1944 Aug. – The earliest known use of the term “soynut butter” in English is in The Soy Cook Book, by Demetria Taylor (p. 47).
1944 – Central Soya Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, introduces Nut-T-Soys – chopped soynuts sold wholesale to bakers.
1945 – The Borden Co. (the famous dairy products company) starts making Soyettes (dry roasted) in Chicago, Illinois. It probably bought the business and brand name from the Soy Bean Products Co. of Chicago (see 1936, above).
1947 March – Victory Mills, Ltd. of Toronto Ontario, Canada, introduces Soy Nuts – the first in Canada.
1960 – An excellent, detailed description of sestubun is given in Things Japanese, by Mock Joya.
1965 – In his unpublished book Soybean Utilization in Japan, William Brandemuhl has an excellent, detailed section under “Miscellaneous Products – Confectionary Products” about roasted soybeans (p. 426-33) in which he describes (with photos) how they are made commercially and used – mostly as candies (each with a name) and at setsubun. His account is based on visits he made to numerous manufacturers in Kyoto.
1968 June – The terms “oil roasted” and “oil roasting” are first used in connection with roasted soybeans by Badenhop et al. (p. 53-62).
1969 – Africa Basic Foods of Kampala, Uganda (founded and owned by Dr. D.W. Harrison, a Seventh-day Adventist) introduces Soya Nuts and Soya Butter – a soynut butter which resembles peanut butter – These are the first such products made in Africa.
1970 Sept. 1 – United Roasters, Inc. in Clayton, North Carolina, begins operations, roasting soybeans. The equipment, worth $150,000, has a capacity of 300,000 pounds of “Golden Nuggets” brand roasted soybeans a month in barbecue and plain flavors. President Jessie Austin believes “this is the only facility in the United States devoted exclusively to the production of roasted soybeans for human consumption” (Humphries 1970).
1970 Dec. – Edible Soy Products, Inc. of Hudson, Iowa, launches Pro-Nuts – Dry-Roasted Soynuts (Dehulled Toasted Soybeans) in Soybean Halves, Diced Toasted Soybeans; Plain, Salted, Barbecue Seasoned, Imitation Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream & Onion, Onion, or Garlic. The best known of the “new wave.”
1970 – The Malt-O-Meal Co. of Minneapolis, Minnesota, introduces Cocktail Party, Soy Ahoy, and Soy Town (Oil-Roasted Soynuts) in Salted, Unsalted, Barbecue, or Garlic flavors.
1971 – General Nutrition Mills of Fargo, North Dakota, launches Golden Harvest SoyBeans (Oil-Roasted Soynuts) in Salt-Free, Salted, Barbecue, Garlic, or Onion flavors.
1971 Nov. – Erewhon Trading Co. in Boston, Massachusetts, launches Hopi Seeds: Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Cashews, or Soybeans – each dry roasted with tamari.
1972 Nov. – The Malt-O-Meal Co. of Minneapolis introduces Soy Town Soy Spread, Soy Honey Bar, Soy Nut Bar – all made from oil-roasted soynuts.
1973 – Hollywood Brands of Centralia, Illinois, launches Zero – a candy bar containing Pro-Nuts made by Edible Soy Products of Hudson, Iowa.
1974 Feb. – Standard Brands of New York City launches Planter’s Soy Nuts. The company is famous for its Planter’s Peanuts.
1975 Nov. – El Molino Mills of City of Industry, California, introduces El Molino Carob Coated Soynuts. The is the earliest known confection-coated soynut made in the United States.
1976 Aug. – INARI, Ltd. of Dansville, Michigan (founded and owned by Leonard and Irene Stuttman) launches Solar Soya – whole oil-roasted soy nuts in Salted, Unsalted, Jalapeno, Chopped, or Ground flavors.
      In Dec. 1977 the brand name was changed to Super Soys from Solar Soya.
1978 May – Itona Products Ltd. of Wigan, England (marketer) introduces Granny Ann Noots: Roasted Salted Soya Beans. They are made in the UK by British Arkady Co.
1978 Nov. – Solnuts B.V. of Tilburg, Netherlands, introduces Solnuts (dry roasted soybeans). The plant, very similar to one operating in the USA, was built in Tilburg under the supervision of Mr. Jim Becker.
1978 – McCormick & Co., Inc. (the world’s leading manufacturer of seasoning and flavoring products) launches Salad Toppins (Dry Salad Topping); one ingredient is “soybeans.” These are dry-roasted soynuts made by Solnuts.
1979 – Sun-Maid Growers of California (the famous raisin co-operative) introduces Sun-Maid Nature Snacks: Coco-Banana. The ingredients include carob-coated soy beans.
1980 summer – Heat and drought devastate peanut crops across America and especially in the Deep South where most of the crop is grown – the leading states being Georgia, Alabama, and Texas in that order. The harvest is down almost 50% – creating opportunities for soynuts and soynut butter.
1980 Aug. – Celestial Seasonings of Boulder, Colorado (famous for its herb teas) launches Salad Snacks in Roasted / Salted, Cheese, Onion and Garlic, or Sour Cream with Chives flavors. Ingredients include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, [roasted] soybeans, natural seasonings, etc.
1980? – Ghirardelli Co. of San Francisco, California (famous for its chocolates) introduces Ghirardelli Original Sweet Chocolate bar in Soy-Nut flavor.
1981 July – "Soynut Butter – Economical Soy Spread," by W. Shurtleff, published in Soyfoods magazine (p. 22-23). This is the earliest document seen with the term "Soynut butter" in the title.
1981 – Itona Products Ltd. of Wigan, England, introduces Granny Ann Noot Bar, with plantmilk (soymilk) used in place of dairy milk for vegans. And Beannoot Butter (soynut butter dry mix based on roasted soy flour).
1983 Jan. – INARI, Ltd. of Mason, Michigan introduces Super Soy Soyprizes (Confection Coated Soynuts – Whole Oil-Roasted) in Carob Coated, Butter Toffee Coated, or Yogurt Coated flavors. The first “confection coated” soynuts in the Western world.
1983 Nov. – INARI Trading Co. of Michigan takes out a very attractive full-page ad in Soybean Digest titled “Celebrate with soynuts. This holiday season, give a gift you grow. Give a soynut sampler.” A completely new idea – and the first use of the word “sampler” with soynuts – that continues for decades, with the Lee Seed Company of Inwood, Iowa, taking over this Christmas gift business in Oct. 1988 and running a full-page ad each November until at least 2004.
1984 – Industry and market statistics compiled by Irene Stuttman of INARI, Ltd. Yearly production for 1984 (top 6 makers) in pounds, ranked by size: (1) General Nutrition Mills (Fargo, North Dakota) 2,000,000 lb. (2) Edible Soy Products (Hudson, Iowa, dry roast only) 2,000,000 lb. (3) INARI, Ltd. (Mason, Michigan) 450,000 lb worth $498,000. (4) Agway, Inc. (Grandin, North Dakota) 250,000 lb. (5) Prairie Products (Riverside, North Dakota) 250,000 lb. (6) Pioneer Specialty Foods (Fargo, North Dakota) 200,000 lb.
1985 Nov. – INARI, Ltd. of Mason, Michigan, launches Super Soy Soynut Butter (sweetened with fructose). The company does extensive research with Michigan State University’s Department of Food Science to find a soybean variety that makes the best soynut butter and to develop a high-quality alternative to peanut butter.
      In Aug. 1987 INARI introduced Gourmet Soysesame Butter and Gourmet Soynut Butter.
1986 – Prestige Foods Ltd. of Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, launches Whole Soybean Snacks (soynuts) – the first on the Indian subcontinent.
1986 Dec. – Solnuts B.V. in Tilburg, the Netherlands, purchases Edible Soy Products, Inc. (makers of Pro-Nuts) and their plant in Hudson, Iowa. The new company, Solnuts, Inc., is a fully owned subsidiary of Solnuts B.V. The owner of Solnuts, Inc. is Wout Coster in Washington, DC. Linda Weigel is the sales manager. They sell soynuts under the brand “Solnuts.” The "Sol" in Solnuts is pronounced like the "sol" in "solvent" or "soluble."
1987 Oct. – Sonne Labs of Breckenridge, Minnesota, introduces Fresh Pack Roasted Soynuts in Unsalted, Salted, Nacho, Barbeque, Sour Cream/Onion, or Onion/Garlic flavors.
1988 Aug. – Sonne Inc., now located in Wahpeton, North Dakota, introduces Dakota Gourmet Roasted Soynuts in Unsalted, Salted, Nacho, Barbeque, Sour Cream/Onion, or Onion/Garlic flavors.
1989 Feb. 16 – Len and Irene Stuttman sell their majority position in INARI, Ltd. to Edward Lowe, the inventor of Kitty Litter, from Michigan. They keep a minority ownership position. J. Charles Follett was CEO and president from April 1989. He lived in Elkhart, Indiana.
1993 – INARI Ltd. begins doing business as Sycamore Creek. However the official corporate name is still INARI, Ltd.
1994 April – The Keebler Company starts using INARI soynuts in their very popular reduced fat Pecan Sandies – rich shortbread cookies with pecans.
1995 April 21 – Len and Irene Stuttman buy back their company from Follett and Lowe.
1995 Dec. – Dyshar Farms Ltd. of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, introduces Real Roasted Soys in Plain, Salted, BBQ, Salt and Garlic, and Chocolate Coated flavors.
1998 July – The SoyNut Butter Co., a marketing (not processing) company of Barrington, Illinois, introduces I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter in Chunky, Creamy, or 100% Organic.
1999 Jan. 4 – Len and Irene Stuttman sell their soynut manufacturing, Sycamore Creek Co. (located in Mason, Michigan) to W.G. Thompson & Sons Ltd. of Blenheim, Ontario, Canada. Thompson keeps the company name, Sycamore Creek Co., and keeps the oil-roasting facility in the United States, but relocates it in Stockbridge, Michigan as part of a plan to triple its capacity.
1999 Sept. 1 – Stake Technology Ltd. of Ontario, Canada (a NASDAQ company) acquires SunRich Inc. in a stock-for-stock deal.
      The company soon starts making roasted soynuts in Crookston, Minnesota.
1999 Oct. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues a new “heart health” claim for foods that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving. Low-quality dry roasted soynuts flood the market as the makers hope to cash in from the new label claim that soy protein can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
2000 – SunRich Inc. starts making roasted soynuts in Wahpeton, North Dakota.
2000 – There is a growing awareness that a tiny percentage of the population have a fatal peanut allergy. Contact with even a minute amount of peanut can lead to sudden death. This risk leads some schools to replace peanut butter with soynut butter.
2003 Oct. 31 – Stake Technology changes its name to SunOpta, Inc.
2004 March – W.G. Thompson & Sons of Canada sells Sycamore Creek Co., their soynut roasting business to The Splinter Group. Splinter runs the company for a while unsuccessfully, almost goes bankrupt, then ceases all operations in Nov. 2005.
2007 Oct. – Hilton Soy Foods of Staffa, Ontario, Canada launches FreeNut Butter (Soynut Butter).
2008 Oct. – Hilton Soy Foods of Staffa, Ontario, Canada launches SoyButter (Soynut Butter) in Smooth or Crunchy. For a while, it is distributed in the United States by David Singsank of Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soynuts, Soynut Butter, Japanese-Style Roasted Soybeans (Irimame) and Setsubun (with Mamemaki) (1068-2012)