History of Soy Flour, Grits and Flakes (510 CE to 2019)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-06-9

Publication Date: 2019 Feb. 16

Number of References in Bibliography: 7467

Earliest Reference: 510 CE

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Soy flour East and West: The main type of soy flour used in East Asia (and especially in Japan, where it is called kinako) is roasted whole soy flour – the subject of a separate book in this series (History of Roasted Soy Flour…). Kinako, which is warm brown in color, is especially widely used in Japanese confections; yet (amazingly and unfortunately) it is almost unknown in the Western world.

In the West, soy flour was mentioned as early as 1821 by Samuel F. Gray and 1822 by William Kitchiner. By the 1940s in the USA the three basic types were: (1) Full fat soy flour – Contains the full fat content of the soybean. (2) Low fat soy flour (expeller process) – Contains anywhere from 4 to 8 percent fat. (3) Low fat soy flour (extraction or solvent process) – Contains less than 1 percent fat. Note: The "enzyme-active soy flour," so widely used for making bread in the UK, is not considered a type of soy flour in the USA. Two more recent types are lecithinated soy flour (lecithin makes it more dispersible) and extrusion cooked soy flour (4-8% fat).

In the West soy flour has long been used as the best way to provide large amounts of low-cost, high quality protein in mass feeding or famine relief programs – such as during and after World War II. It is also the single best ingredient to use to boost the protein content of foods based on cereal grain flours – such as breads.

Soy flour is in a category of its own: It is neither a traditional Asian soyfoods or ingredient, nor a modern soy protein product (like soy protein isolates and concentrates). Whole soy flour can easily be made using simple, traditional technology. However most soy flour in the world today is a by-product of the modern, high-tech solvent extraction process, used to crush soybeans to make soy oil and soybean meal

Soy flour in Europe and the United States: Enzyme-active whole soy flour is used in most bread in England as a bread improver and natural bleaching agent. By 1963 an estimated 75% of the bread made in Great Britain contains at least some soy flour. In the USA, most soy flour is defatted – a by-product of the solvent extraction process (See Pringle 1991).

The term “soy flour” is a misnomer: “Soya flour conforms to this definition [of flour] only in appearance. The composition and functional properties of soya flour are entirely different from those of any of the cereal flours. Soya flour is basically a highly concentrated vegetable protein material. The protein content of soya flour is not only high, but numerous tests have indicated that it is nutritionally adequate for the growth and maintenance of both infant and adult. Soya flour can be used as a supplement for use with other products which have a relatively low or deficient protein content” (E.A. Buelens in Soybean Digest, 1951, p. 12-13).

Brief chronology of soy flour, flakes and grits.

510 CE – The Mingyi Bielu, by Tao Hongjing is the earliest document seen that mentions whole soy flour.

1878 – Soy flour or grits are first clearly referred to in the West by Prof. Friedrich Haberlandt (Vienna). I had soy grits added to mashed potatoes to make a dish resembling Polenta. This might be called Sojenta (p. 107). My family also experimented with adding soy grits (Sojaschrot) to wheat flour to make bread, with and without the addition of milk, and in all cases we were highly pleased with the results (p. 107) (Die Sojabohne).

1880 – The term “bean-flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (Gill).

1880 – Soybeans are first said to contain little or no starch by Pellet in France. In 1886 Paillieux in France first suggests the use of soy in diabetic diets. In 1888 Egasse in France first refers to the actual use of soy flour in diabetic diets.

1885 – The term “bean flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (Balfour).

1888 – Bourdin & Co. in Reims, France, launches Pain de Soja Gluten [Soy & Gluten Bread]; it was formulated for diabetics and its nutritional composition is known. It may be the earliest (or one of the two earliest) known commercial soy flour product.

1888 – Lecerf & Cie in Paris, France, launches Soya-Bread Lecerf [Lecerf’s Soya Bread]; it was formulated for diabetics. It may well be one of the two earliest known commercial soy flour products.

1889 April – The term “soya flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (by Medical Record, NY).

1893 – The term “soya bean flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (White).

1896 – The term “soy bean meal” is first used to refer to whole soy flour (Woods).

1897 Nov. 12 – The term “soy flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (Denver Evening Post).

1900 – The term “soy bean flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (Hutchison).

1906 – Soy flour (Metcalf’s Soja Bean Meal) is first made commercially in the United States by Theo Metcalf Co. in Boston, Massachusetts (Winton).

1906 – The term “soja bean meal” is first used to refer to whole soy flour (Winton).

1909 Aug. – Soya Flour is first made commercially in England by the Hull Oil Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (Hull, England) (Milling. Aug. 28).

1912 Feb. – Soy flour is first mentioned in connection with use in brewing beer; its protein helps in providing a stable head of foam on the beer (Charnley, British Patent No. 3899).

1917 – The term “soybean flour” is first used to refer to soy flour (New York Produce Review).

1921 Jan. 21 – Ladislaus Berczeller, PhD, of Vienna, Austria-Hungary, is issued a German patent for making soy flour. His new product is the subject of a long article titled “’Manna’ for the hungry” in the Times (London) (Sept. 28).

1928 – Laszlo Berczeller coins the name “Edelsoja” for his whole soy flour. On May 6, 1928, Edelsoja is first mentioned in an Austrian newspaper (Neue Freie Presse, Vienna). In 1932 a company by that name is founded in Berlin and starts to sell Berczeller’s products.

1929 Feb. – Soyolk, a whole soy flour produced by the Berczeller Process, starts to be made in London by The Soya Flour Manufacturing Co., Ltd. It is the earliest known commercial soy flour made in England (Food Manufacture, Feb. 1929, p. 35-36).

1930 Feb. – J.R. Short Milling Co. of Chicago starts to make and sell Wytase, the first enzyme-active soy flour used for natural bleaching of bread and other baked goods. The process was discovered by Louis W. Haas and his co-worker Ralph M. Bohn, in the research laboratories of The W.E. Long Company in Chicago. The research work had been undertaken under contract for Mr. J.R. Short, president of the J.R. Short Milling Co. of Chicago; his company now has the rights to manufacture, control, and sell the new natural bleaching substance (Food Industries, Feb. 1930, p. 57-59).

1930 – Soyex (Whole Soy Flour) starts to be made by Soyolk Company, Inc in Nutley, New Jersey. It is made by the Berczeller process. Prior to manufacture, the concessionaires had been importing Soyolk from the British company for over a year. Dr. Charles E. Fearn was closely connected with this company (Food Manufacture, Nov. 1931, p. 334-35).

1932 – The term “whole soya flour” is first used (Horvath).

1933 Aug. – Soybean flakes, made from fat-free soybean flour or meal, are increasingly used in the U.S. brewing industry. Adding them to beer in the formulation produces a better head of foam and increases the protein content of the beer (Wahl 1933).

1936 Aug. – F.G. Roberts Health Products in Melbourne, Australia, launches its first soy flour product – Roberts Soy-Wheat Macaroni.

1936 Sept – The term “grits” is first used to refer to coarse soy flour (by A.E. Staley Mfg. Co.).

1936 – The Soy Flour Association is founded in Chicago.

1937 Sept. – 21.915 million pounds per year of soybean flour are now made in the United States. These are the earliest known statistics on soy flour production – anywhere (Farm Chemurgic Journal. p. 166-69).

1938 Sept – The term “soy grits” is first used in English to refer to coarse soy flour (by A.E. Staley Mfg. Co.).

1938 – The German Army Soya Cookbook is published in Germany. It contains many recipes using Edelsoja whole soy flour.

1940 April 23 – In Nazi Germany, Edelsoja whole soy flour has become a crucial weapon, which rates a major story in the Times (London). The soybean is described as the “magic bean.” “The soya has become vitally important to Germany from the food, the economic, and the military standpoints. It has been described as 'unquestionably the most important food plant in the world.” Moreover Americans now “produce and consume over 300,000 tons of soya annually.

1940 Feb. – The term “full-fat soy flour” is first used (by Chemical and Engineering News).

1941 June 7Business Week reports that last year U.S. food companies used about 3,000,000 lb of soy flour.”

1941 Aug. – The term “full-fat soya” is first used to refer to full fat soya flour (USDA).

During and after World War II production and consumption of soy flour rises to dizzying new heights in the USA because of its high protein content, low cost, long shelf life, and versatility of use. It is used to supply American allies as part of the lend-lease program. On 5 Dec. 1942 Science News Letter reported that over 600 million pounds of soya flour and grits have been purchased by the Agricultural Marketing Administration for shipment to our allies and for school lunches. It was also used as part of rations for the armed forces. After the war it was used as a major component of food relief programs, such as UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and by many voluntary and church relief organizations.

1942 Sept. – The Soy Flour Association (Chicago, USA) reports that "The consumption of edible soy flour in the United States has remained around 25 million pounds annually for the past few years.”

1943 June 11 – The “Report of the State Food Commission” (by H.E. Babcock) in the New York Times, first mentions soy flour in its call for a more nutritious loaf of bread. By mid-1949, this “open formula” loaf, enriched with soy flour, would soon come to be known as Cornell “triple-rich” Bread, the creation of Dr. Clive and Jeanette McCay (Rorty 1950). The McCay’s were persistent and influential critics of typical American enriched white bread.

1943 Dec. – Soya Corporation of America starts making Sycora Whole Soya Flour and Full-Fat Soy Grits, in Hagerstown, Maryland. The brains and driving force behind the operation is Dr. Artemy Horvath. Their office is at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York City.

1946 Sept. – The term “whole soy flour” is first used.

1947 – ADM Brew Flakes (soy flakes) are launched as a commercial product for improving the head of foam on beer.

1954 July 10 – Public Law 480, technically known as the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, is signed into law on 10 July 1954 by president Dwight D. Eisenhower. The program soon became widely known as Food for Peace. Over the next 50 years, millions of tons of soy flour were sent overseas for various reasons as part of this food program.

1956 – The term “soyaflour” is first used to refer to soy flour (Pineda).

1963 Sept. – A completely new method is developed for making soy flour. It involves the use of an extrusion cooker (also called an extruder) and produces a low-fat flour made without any chemicals or solvents (Soybean Digest, Sept. 1963, p. 91; Soybean Digest, Feb. 1989, p. 56h).

1966 Sept. – CSM (Corn-Soya-Milk) starts to be shipped overseas to needy countries by the P.L. 480 (Food for Peace) Program. Eventually more than a million tons are shipped.

1999 Oct. 26 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes a health claim stating that consumption of 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving, as a part of a healthy diet, low in saturated fats and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. This claim soon appears on the front of many products that meet these requirements. It leads to the creation of many new soy products, including products containing soy flour, and generates major public interest in soyfoods.

The many names of soy flour, grits and flakes (useful for digital searching):

Bean flour or bean-flour

Sojabean flour

Sojabean flour or soja-bean flour

Soja flour or soja-flour

Soyabean flour

Soya bean flour or soya-bean flour

Soybean flour

Soy bean flour or soy-bean flour

Soybean powder

Soy bean powder or soy-bean powder


Soya flour or soya-flour


Soy flour or soy-flour

Soy powder


Full-fat soya

Fullfat soy flour

Full fat soy flour or full-fat soy flour

Full soy flour

Full soya flour

High fat soy flour

High fat soya flour

Soy bean meal

Soja bean meal

Soya bean meal

Whole soy flour

Whole soya flour

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soy Flour, Grits and Flakes (510 CE to 2019)