History of Tempeh and Tempeh Products (1815-2022)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-70-0

Publication Date: 2022 Feb. 6

Number of References in Bibliography: 5010

Earliest Reference: 1815

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Tempeh Worldwide.

The word tempe appears to have originated in Central Java, in today’s Indonesia. It is not derived from Chinese (as are the names of so many other Indonesian soyfoods) and it does not start with the prefix tau or tao (as do tauci, tauco, taugé, taujiong, tahu, takua) (Astuti 1999, p. 2-15).

“In Javanese literature, the word kedelai (written as kedele in Javanese), was first recorded in the Serat Sri Tanjung manuscript, believed to have been written in the 12th or 13th centuries” (Astuti 1999, p. 3).

1815 – The earliest known reference to tempe is found in the Serat Centhini manuscript. This document was first cited for its early reference to tempe in History of Tempeh, by Shurtleff & Aoyagi (July 1984, p. 9; May 1985, p. 9), then in The Book of Tempeh, 2nd ed., by Shurtleff & Aoyagi (1985, p. 145, 169). The story in the manuscript is set in the reign of Sultan Agung (1613-1645) and the descriptions purport to be of that time, so it is possible that tempeh existed in Java in the early 1600s.

A more detailed explanation and translation was given by Astuti (1999, p. 4-15).

1875 – The earliest known reference to tempe by a European appears in the Javaansch-Nederduitsch Handwoordenboek, by J.F.C. Gericke and T. Roorda.

1895 and 1896 – Two articles by the Dutchman H.C. Prinsen Geerligs (who lives in Java) usher in the era of scientific research on tempeh by European microbiologists and food scientists. The 1896 article (which is a German translation of his 1895 Dutch-language article) is the first to spell the word “tempeh” (with an “h” on the end). It is also the first to give the name of the tempeh mold as Rhizopus Oryzae.

But other early Western authors, especially the Dutch, use the spelling témpé (Gericke and Rorda 1875; Heyne 1913) or tèmpé (Vorderman 1902; Stahel 1946).

1900 – The Dutchman Dr. P.A. Boorsma, who lives in Java and did original laboratory tests, publishes the first detailed description (in Dutch) of the traditional Indonesian process for making Tempe kedeleh (soybean tempeh).

1902 – The earliest known tempeh recipes in any Western language are published in a Dutch-language cookbook by Johanna Catenius van der Meidjen. Tempé is called for in four recipes. The book, Nieuw Volledig Oost-Indisch Kookboek, is published in the Dutch East Indies.

1905 – Dr. Kendo Saito, a professor in the Plant Physiology Laboratory of the Botanical Institute at Tokyo Imperial University, first describes (in German) and illustrates what is today considered to be the main tempeh microorganism, Rhizopus oligosporus. He did not, however, mention tempeh (Zentralblatt fuer Bakteriologie 14:623-27).

1912 – Dr. Ryoji Nakazawa, the great Japanese microbiologist, is the first Japanese to study tempeh. He asks a person from Southeast Asia to bring him samples of tempeh and oncom (ontjom, made from peanut presscake); he analyzes their microorganisms. He was working at the Taiwan High Commissioner’s Office Central Research Laboratory at the time.

1926 – Dr. Nakazawa takes a research trip to Java and Sumatra, where he collects 22 samples of soy tempeh and oncom from various markets and small manufacturers. He and Takeda analyze the microorganisms used and in 1928 publish “On the filamentous used to make ontjom and tempeh in the South Pacific,” in Japanese in Nihon Nogei Kagakkai Shi (4:252-63).

1931 – The first English-language information about tempeh appears in Vegetables of the Dutch East Indies, by J.J. Ochse (p. 391). He describes the tempeh-making process in detail and says that the mold used is Aspergillus oryzae.

1936 – In about this year (according to van Veen 1962) a group of missionaries from Travancore, a poor region of southern India, wanted to make and introduce soy tempeh. For 3 weeks van Veen gave them short courses in how to make tempeh. When the missionaries returned to Travancore they made tempeh and it was fine “but the Indian population did not have any interest in this unknown fermentation product and the experiment failed.” This is the earlist known introduction of tempeh to India.

1946 April – ENTI (Eerste Nederlandse Tempe Industrie), the first tempeh-making company in Europe is founded by a Dutch couple whose last name was Wedding; they had learned how to make tempeh while living in Indonesia. The origins and history of this company are shrouded in the mists of time; it is not clear when they actually started (perhaps 1948) and when they started to sell the tempeh they made.

1946 Dec. – The first English-language article specifically about tempeh is written by Gerold Stahel, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station in Paramaribo, Surinam (a Dutch colony). He wrote: “Here in Surinam, as in the East Indies, most of the soybeans are consumed in this form.” This was also the earliest known article about tempeh published in the United States (in the Journal of the New York Botanical Garden), and the earliest reference to tempeh in Latin America.

1944 – Dr. Masahiro Nakano (age 37), one of Dr. Nakazawa’s youngest but eventually best-known students of microbiology, goes to Japan’s National Food Research Institute (NFRI) (Shokuryo Kenkyujo) in Tokyo and creates a Department of Applied Micro-biology. After World War II (starting in about 1946) Dr. Nakano and his student, Teruo Ohta, introduce tempeh to Japan. They are the first to make and serve tempeh in Japan and they wrote numerous articles about this food (Nakano 1959; Ohta, Ebine & Nakano 1964; Ohta 1965, Nakano 1967, Ohta 1971; Watanabe, Ebine & Ohta 1971, etc.).

1950 June – P.M.L. Tammes (in Dutch) gives the first detailed discussion of Indonesian starter culture (ragi) and how ragi is used to make tempeh.

1950 – Van Veen and Schaefer are the first to spell the word “tempeh” in an English-language article. The final “h” was added prevent the word from being pronounced “temp.” The new spelling quickly caches on. Steinkraus et al. (1960) are the first in the United States to spell it “tempeh.” Most Westerners feel that correct pronunciation is more important than correct spelling. However most Indonesians now spell the word “tempe,” which is the correct spelling in their language.

1958 – Scientific research on tempeh in the United States begins when Ms. Bwee Hwa YAP of Indonesia begins to work with Dr. Keith H. Steinkraus, a top microbiologist, and his Cornell group at Geneva, New York. The first of their many pioneering papers is published in Dec. 1960.

1959 Jan. – Firma E.S. Lembekker is founded in Amsterdam; it is Europe’s 2nd earliest tempeh maker.

1960 – Scientific research on tempeh at the USDA Northern Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria, Illinois, begins when KO Swan Djien arrives from Indonesia to study industrial fermentation. Dr. Hesseltine, another world-class microbiologist, encourages him to start by studying the tempeh fermentation; he knows tempeh well but has never studied it. The first of their many pioneering papers was published in 1961.

1960s – Another center of tempeh research in Japan develops during the early 1960s at the Food and Nutrition Laboratory, in the Faculty of Science of Living, at Osaka City University. Early research there (on antioxidants in tempeh) is done by Dr. Kiku Murata, Dr. Hideo Ikehata, and co-workers. Between 1964 and 1980 Dr. Murata is the senior author of eight publications on tempeh and co-author of five others.

1961 – The first commercial tempeh shop in North American, Joy of Java Tempe, is opened by Mary Otten, of Indonesian ancestry, in Albany California. Other early U.S. tempeh shops, all located in Los Angeles, were Runnels Foods (started in 1962), Toko Baru (1969), and Bali Foods (1975). Thus America’s first generation of tempeh shops were all located in California and founded and run by Indonesian-Americans (Shurtleff & Aoyagi, History of Tempeh (HOT) 1985, p. 39).

1963 – “Investigations of tempeh, an Indonesian food,” by Hesseltine et al. is the first scientific article to investigate many different tempeh cultures (including 26 strains of Rhizopus) and to select one strain (NRRL 2710) as being best suited for making tempeh from soybeans. They later find it is also best for making tempeh from cereal grains, and from mixtures of both. This strain soon becomes the first choice of tempeh makers, big and small, in North America. This 1963 article also contains the first detailed discussion of tempeh starter culture in English.

1964 May – The use of perforated plastic bags and tubes as containers for tempeh fermentation is first proposed by Martinelli and Hesseltine in an article in the journal Food Technology. This new idea and new technology is quickly transferred to tempeh makers in Java, where it becomes widely used.

1964 May – KO Swan Djien of Indonesia presents a 17-page paper titled “Tempe, a fermented food from soybeans,” at the International Symposium on Oilseed Protein Foods, held May 11-16 in Tokyo, Japan. It contains the most complete information seen to date on tempeh, especially tempe in Indonesia. The section titled “Preparation of tempe” contains the first tempe recipes seen in English. Three common ways of cooking tempeh are given, with ingredients (but no exact amounts) and procedure; no recipe names are given. It is also the earliest known reference to the use of okara in making tempe.

In this document, Ko is the first to signal what he hopes will be the beginning of a new image for tempe Indonesia: "But there is no doubt that the time will come when Indonesians will be proud of their tempe, in the same way as the Japanese are proud of their sake, the French people of their wine, Italians of their macaroni, Indians of their curry, Russians of their caviar, the Dutch of their cheese, etc." Unfortunately, the paper was never published.

1969 June – Wang, Ruttle & Hesseltine first discover an antibacterial compound in tempeh, Antibiotics, such as penicillin, have long been made from fungal cultures. It is well established that antibiotics minimize infections (Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology).

1969 – Handelsonderneming van Dappern is founded in the Netherlands by Robert van Dappern, with the help of his Dutch father (Herman), his Indonesian mother (Aveline), and Dutch-Indonesian wife. He paid the Dutch-Indonesian sailor (who had founded Firma ENTI) a substantial sum of money to teach him how to make tempeh. By 1970 they were making tempeh in a small warehouse in Rotterdam. By 1972 or 1973 they moved the thriving company to Kerkrade, in southern Holland near the family home in Heerlen, and started mass production. By mid-1982 the company was making 6,000 to 8,000 lb/week of tempeh, making it the largest tempeh manufacturing company in the world. In 1983 the company was renamed Tempe Production Inc. By early 1984 production had increased to 13,200 pounds a week.

1970Cooking the Indonesian Way, by Alec Robeau, is published in New South Wales, Australia. It contains four named tempe recipes, with the amount of each ingredient given: Sajur oblok, Sajur gudek, Sajur kangkung, and Tempe goreng. These are the world’s first real tempeh recipes in English.

1972 Feb.Introduction of Soybeans for Human Nutrition, Republic of Zambia, by Dr. Thio Goan Loo, a 51-page report, is published jointly by the Government of The Netherlands and the Republic of Zambia. A description of workshops held at 8 places in Zambia in Aug. and Sept. 1971, it introduces tempeh, tofu, soymilk, and other soyfoods to Zambia. This is the 2nd earliest reference to tempeh in Africa. The author is Senior Technologist at the Royal Tropical Institute, Dep. of Agricultural Research. Amsterdam. It includes a recipe for making “Soy Steak (Tempeh)” at home.

1972 – The Farm, a large spiritual community of several thousand “hippies” in Summertown, Tennessee, starts making tempeh for its members. Alexander Lyon is the pioneer, soon joined by many other Farm residents. They start the first Caucasian (though non-commercial) tempeh shop in North America. They play a key role popularizing tempeh in the United Sates and Canada (The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook 1975).

1975 Feb. – Gale Randall starts the Indonesian Tempeh Co., the first Caucasian-run commercial tempeh shop in North America, in Unadilla, Nebraska, making Soy- and Wheat-Soy tempeh (HOT, p. 49).

1975 Feb.The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, is published by The Farm (Summertown, Tennessee, 128 p.). It contains a section titled “Tempeh” (p. 60-62). This book played an important role in introducing tempeh, soyfoods, and a vegan diet to America. It is The Farm’s earliest publication that contains a tempeh recipe (Indonesian Fried Tempeh).

1976 May Mother Earth News publishes an article about tempeh. This and a number of subsequent magazine articles listed the USDA’s Northern Regional Research Lab. (Peoria, Illinois) as America’s only source of tempeh starter. Over the next few years the Peoria group sent out some 25,000 tempeh starter cultures and instructions and instructions for making tempeh, free of charge, to people and organizations requesting them; by 1981 the number sent out had reached 35,000.

1976 July – “Tempe,” by Cynthia Bates, a 4-panel (blue on white) leaflet is published at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. It describes how to make 5 pounds of tempe, and the differences between good and bad tempeh (with photos showing each). It gives four recipes, including one for a “Tempe burger.” This is the earliest known reference to that term. This leaflet was distributed with Cynthia’s tempeh starter and “Fermentation Funnies” (cartoons designed to help introduce tempeh). Thus in 1976, the Farm became a source of commercial tempeh starter (powdered, pure culture), made by Cynthia Bates at the Tempeh Lab.

1976 Aug. – America’s first Soy Deli, established in the Farm Food Company’s storefront restaurant in San Rafael, California, features tempeh in Tempeh Burgers, Deep-fried Tempeh Cutlets, and Tempeh with Creamy Tofu Topping. The first tempeh dishes sold in an Americans-style restaurant, they are made from tempeh produced by Don Wilson in the rear of the building (HOT, p. 44).

1976 – A.I. Nelson and L.K. Ferrier at the University of Illinois, Department of Food Science, develop a low-tech, build-it-yourself soybean dehuller and hull separator. It works well for making tempeh, is not patented, and was first used commercially in Feb. 1981 by Soyfoods Unlimited, Inc. in California. Also in Feb. 1981 an article about it by Steve Fiering (illustrated by Akiko Aoyagi) appeared in Soyfoods magazine.

1977 Jan. – A media blitz for tempeh begins in the United States with major articles in Organic Gardening (circulation 1.35 million), Mother Earth News, and East West Journal (July 1978).

1977 early – The Farm (Summertown, Tennessee) starts selling America’s first commercial tempeh starter. It is made by Cynthia Bates. In 1977 when Farm Foods was founded, it took over marketing of the tempeh starter. They also sold America’s first Tempeh Kit, made at The Farm.

1978 June – Robert Walker starts making Canada’s first tempeh at a commercial kitchen his home in Port Perry, Canada. His inspiration came from an article titled “Tempeh, a new health food opportunity,” by Robert Rodale published in July 1977 in Prevention magazine. By early 1983 there were five tempeh companies in Canada. All were quite small, making less than 200 pounds of tempeh a week.

1979 Feb – White Wave of Boulder, Colorado, launches Soya Rice Tempeh, America’s first multi-grain tempeh and the first to contain rice.

1979 early – There are 13 commercial tempeh shops in operation in the United States, 1 in Canada, and 4 in Europe (all in the Netherlands) (Shurtleff & Aoyagi 1979, p. 148-49).

1979 March 11 – KOPTI, the Cooperative of Tempe and Tofu producers of Indonesia is founded, with Achmad Rouzi Noor as director in Jakarta. By 1983 KOPTI had over 28,000 members in Java; 72% of these ran home industries (HOT, p. 26).

1979 April – In Sri Lanka, from April to June, 1979, Dr. Thio Goan Loo, a Chinese-Indonesian stationed at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, taught many people, especially those associated with the Soyafoods Research Center at Gannoruwa, how to make and serve tempeh.

1979 June – Farm Foods (in Lanark, Ontario, Canada) starts making and selling tempeh. The main tempeh makers are Susan and Allan Brown. They learned how to make tempeh and tempeh starter at The Farm in Summertown, Tennessee.

1979 JulyThe Book of Tempeh, by Shurtleff & Aoyagi, is published by Harper & Row (New York City, 160 p.). The world’s first book devoted entirely to tempeh in any language.

1979 Sept. – The Tempeh Works, founded by Michael Cohen in Greenfield, Massachusetts, starts making and selling tempeh. It is the first U.S. company to set up shop in a commercial building strictly for the purpose of making tempeh. By Sept. 1981 The Tempeh Works was making 6,800 pounds/week of tempeh.

1980 MarchTempeh Production: A Craft and Technical Manual, by Shurtleff and Aoyagi is published by the authors (176 p.). It describes how to start and run a commercial tempeh manufacturing company on any of six different scales. It is the first such book written in the Western world.

1980 June – Noble Bean, founded by Allan and Susan Brown, starts making tempeh in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown. They bought Robert Walker’s equipment. In June 1985 they moved to R.R. 1, McDonalds Corners (near Elphin), Ontario, Canada. Today they are Canada’s largest tempeh maker.

1980 Aug. – Island Spring (in Vashon, Washington) introduces the world’s first commercial “Tempeh Burgers.” They are made on a small scale in individual round petri dishes.

1980 Aug. – Pacific Tempeh is started in Emeryville, California, by Travis Burgeson.

1980 June – GEM Cultures, started by microbiologists Gordon McBride (PhD) and Betty Stechmeyer in Fort Bragg, California, becomes the first source of “Living Tempeh Starter” (LTS) in both Kit and Professional sizes. Gordon is the former manager of the Living Culture Department at Ann Arbor Biological Center, Inc. (in Michigan) (Soyfoods, summer 1980, p. 4). In July 1981 GEM Cultures launches Powdered Tempeh Starter (PTS).

1980 Dec. – Turtle Island Soy Dairy, founded by Seth Tibbott, starts making soy tempeh inside the Hope Co-op in Forest Grove, Oregon. Their next two products, launched in June 1981 are Tempehroni (herb-seasoned tempeh in sausage-like rolls), and Five Grain Tempeh (with soybeans, rice, millet, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds); this is America’s 1st herbed tempeh and America’s 2nd multi-grain tempeh (but America’s 1st multi-grain with three or more grains). In Feb. In June 1981 – Soyfoods Unlimited launched a Soy & Rice Tempeh (using brown rice).

1980 – The earliest known tempeh companies start in Australia. The first two to start were Dharma, part of Earth Foods in Waverly, run by Swami Veetdharma, and a small shop at Bodhi Farm, New South Wales, run by John Seed.

Note: In May 2018 Denis Peter Johnson, in a letter to Wm. Shurtleff at Soyinfo Center, claimed that he was the first person to make and sell tempeh in Australia. He says he started there in 1979. But he has no evidence or proof.

1981 Jan. – Pacific Tempeh introduces the world’s 2nd tempeh burger – but the first made and marketed on a large scale; they quickly become very popular and widely imitated. The company also sells the world’s first vacuum-packed tempeh. In March 1982 they develop a handsome full-color poster advertising their tempeh burger.

1981 Jan. – Paul’s Tofu & Tempeh is in operation at 155 Archway Rd., Highgate, London – the first European tempeh shop outside of the Netherlands.

1981 Jan.Soyanews (in Sri Lanka) introduces tempeh to its many readers, with a description of how to make tempeh at home plus many recipes. Sun-dried tempeh came to be called “soya karawala,” karawala being a popular type of dried fish, which tempeh apparently was found to resemble in texture and flavor. By May 1981, tempeh starter was available at SFRC (Soybean Foods Research Centre (at Gannoruwa). Soya Soya Karawala was first introduced commercially in 1982, the first of about 7 commercial tempeh products made in Sri Lanka. Many subsequent articles about tempeh were published in Soyanews.

1981 – Starting this year and for the next decade, Dr. M.P. Vaidehi (of the Department of Rural Home Science, University of Agricultural Sciences at Bangalore, India) did a great deal to introduce tempeh to Indian villages and to promote its use. She made her own tempeh, then did a study serving tempeh curry and tempeh chips to 100 villagers and 100 urban consumers. The two products were well received (Vaidehi 1981; Vaidehi 1993).

1981 Feb. 15 – Valerie, John and Gary Robertson start to make tempeh at Soyfoods Unlimited Inc. in their $100,000 state-of-the American-art plant in San Leandro, California. In June 1981 they launch Soy & Rice Tempeh and in Sept. 1981 Tempeh Burgers (marinated, non-fried, vacuum packed). By Oct. 1982 they are running beautiful full-page color ads for the burgers under the slogan “All the Sizzle.., None of the Steak” in Vegetarian Times and East West Journal.

1982 May – About 19,055 pounds of tempeh are being made each week in the United States; a year later that amount has increased by 34% to 25,590 pounds (Soyfoods Industry and Market, by Soyfoods Center).

1983 Feb. – Pacific Tempeh introduces Tempeh Lite, America’s first commercial okara tempeh; it contains 25% by weight of brown rice. Low in cost and high in fiber, it is marketed like fish sticks.

1983 July – Travis Burgeson sells Pacific Tempeh to Quong Hop & Co., a large manufacturer of tofu and soymilk that had not previously made tempeh. Pacific Tempeh was kept as the brand name for Quong Hop’s line of tempeh products. By Jan. 1984 production has risen to 7,000 pounds a week, making Quong Hop the largest tempeh manufacturer in the United States, followed by White Wave (CO), then Soyfoods Unlimited (CA), then The Tempeh Works (MA).

1983 – Starting this year, five organizations deserve the lion’s share of the credit for commercializing tempeh in Japan: Torigoe Flour Milling Co. (started making and selling tempeh in June 1983, the first company in Japan to do so), the National Food Research Institute (NFRI), The Japan Natto Association, Marukin Foods, and Marusan-Ai (Shurtleff & Aoyagi 1985, p. 153-55).

1984 Jan. – In the United States, 53 companies are producing 34,675 pounds of tempeh each week at an average retail price of $2.50 per pound; this is the equivalent of $4.96 million per year (HOT, p. 59).

1984 MarchTempeh Cookery, edited by Colleen Pride, is published by The Book Publishing Co. (Summertown, Tennessee; 127 p.). America’s fourth popular book about tempeh, it is the first with full-page color photos. It becomes a perennial best-seller.

1984 JulyHistory of Tempeh: A Fermented Soyfood from Indonesia, by Shurtleff and Aoyagi, is published by the authors (81 pages, 375 references). A slightly revised 2nd edition is published in May 1985 (91 p.). Much of the above history is documented in these books.

1984 July – In Japan the Tempe Research Society (Tenpe Kenkyu-Kai) is founded in Tokyo by various friends of tempeh (incl. Dr. Kiku Murata and Mrs. Yasuko Torii) as a membership organization (with annual dues) to provide a forum for ongoing investigation, discussion and popularization of tempeh. The proceedings of each meeting were distributed to members.

1984 Nov. – Tempehworks, Inc. (Greenfield Massachusetts) launches Lightlife Meatless Fakin’ Bacon (made from tempeh). The first marinated tempeh strip, and a best-seller, it was renamed Marinated Smoky Tempeh Strips in about April 1997.

1985 March The Book of Tempeh, 2nd ed., by Shurtleff and Aoyagi published by Harper & Row (New York City, 175 p). Appendix A, “A brief history of tempeh East and West” (p. 145-56) is greatly expanded and updated (based largely on History of Tempeh, 1984, 1985), as is Appendix B, “Tempeh makers in the West” (listed alphabetically by state in the USA and by country overseas). Marusan-Ai, which started making tempeh in Japan in 1983, is now the world’s largest tempeh manufacturer, making 15,148 lb (6,885 kg) per week (p. 155).

1985 Sept. – The Tempeh Works is renamed Tempeworks, Inc., gets large loans, and introduces its first non-tempeh product – Tofu Pups: The Uncommon Dog (a meatless hot dog whose main ingredient is tofu).

1986 Dec. 1 – White Wave of Boulder, Colorado, acquires Soyfoods Unlimited, Inc. Each of the three Robertsons ended up owning 1% of White Wave. With this acquisition, White Wave becomes the largest tempeh maker in the United States.

1987 April 1 – Tempehworks, Inc. is renamed Lightlife Foods, Inc. The company now makes Tempehworks Tempeh, Tofu Pups (meatless hot dogs) and Cookie Heaven (ready to bake cookie batter).

1987 – The Plenty Canada Soya Utilization Project (related to but separate from The Farm in Tennessee) starts to play an important part in introducing tempeh to Sri Lanka.

1987 Sept. – Centro de Soya, Soy Dairy in San Bartolo, Solola, Guatemala, starts making the first commercial tempeh (named “Tempi”) in Latin America outside of Surinam (a Dutch colony). The tempeh is made by Amado del Valle and his business partner, Philippe. Members of The Farm (Summertown, Tennessee) are instrumental in starting and maintaining this company, and in introducing this product. By the mid-1990s this company was renamed Alimentos San Bartolo.

1991 Oct. – Jiangdou Nutritive Food Factory (Jongdou, Jiangsu province, China) introduces the earliest known commercial tempeh in China. Founded by Dong Min-Sheng of the Dept. of Food Science, Nanjing Agricultural University, the product is named “Tempeh.”

1997 April – Dakini Health Foods Pvt. Ltd. of Pune / Puna, India, starts making the first commercial tempeh in India. The very successful company, founded and run by Seemo (Mr. H. Shapiro from Israel) and Khairava (Mrs. J. Spaelstra from the Netherlands) also makes two types of tahini, peanut butter, hummus, and (in Aug. 1999) tofu (“soymilk paneer”). They came to India to be at the ashram of Sri Rajneesh (Osho) in Pune.

1997 – Mary Astuti (PhD, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia) presents a superb paper on the “History of the development of tempeh,” with much new information on the early history of tempeh, tempeh starter, and soybeans in Indonesia; it was published in 1999 (The Complete Handbook of Tempe, p. 2-15).

1997 July – “Current state of the North American tempeh market,” by Seth Tibbott (founder and owner of Turtle Island Foods) is published in Reinventing the Hidden Miracle of Tempeh, Proceedings of an International Tempe Symposium held in Bali, Indonesia (p. 28-35). It gives a good update of tempeh history and the tempeh market in the USA from 1985 to May 1997.

2000 July 14 – Conagra, one of the world’s largest food companies (with annual sales of more than $25 billion), acquires Lightlife Foods, Inc., of Turners Falls, Massachusetts (Conagra news release).

2000 Oct. 3 – Rustono, who was born in Java, Indonesia, starts to make tempeh in Japan – but he sells it only to Indonesians. He lives in a Japanese village about an hour’s drive from Kyoto with his wife and two children. On 3 Oct. 2003 he starts to make tempeh in Otsu, Japan – and for the first time starts selling it to Japanese. He soon becomes known as the “King of tempeh.” Both Indonesians (in Japan) and Japanese enjoy his tempeh (Sudiarno 2008; Rustono Oct. 2011).

2005-2010 – A “soy scare” on the Internet, starting at about this time, leads to more tempeh being made from other types of grain legumes, such as garbanzo beans, peanuts, azuki, etc.

2008 – The Indonesian Tempe Forum (ITF) is established. Its goal is to modernize tempeh, enhance its image, and improve the condition and production of traditional tempeh makers in Indonesia.

2009 March – Turtle Island (Oregon) launches the first line of marinated tempeh strips in three flavors. Smoky Maple Bacon was added to this in March 2010. Turtle Island was already in mass supermarkets in the southeastern United States, but by mid-2011 the tempeh products were added as line extensions in those accounts – especially in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, in that order. The Sesame Garlic and the Smoky Maple flavors are the best sellers in the line.

2009 April – The Soybean Company (SBC) in Kerkrade, Netherlands (founded by Robert van Dappern but now owned by Angelo Croci, an Italian) is now the largest tempeh maker in The Netherlands and in Europe. The company is making about 15,000 lb/week of soy tempeh. The tempeh is cultured with Rhizopus oryzae, which enables it to stay white, with no black spores visible, for 18 days www.tempehproducts.com

2011 – Pasteurizing tempeh by using vacuum sealing for longer refrigerated shelf life. This has been taking place since the mid-1990s, but it has been steadily improved. Refrigerated tempeh has a better texture and flavor than frozen tempeh, and requires much less energy use.

2011 – People are increasingly becoming aware of the many important benefits of fermented foods and fermented soyfoods, and of a “whole foods, plant-based diet.”

2011 Oct. – Lightlife Foods, Inc. of Turner Falls, Massachusetts, is by far the biggest tempeh maker in the United States, followed by Turtle Island Foods, Inc. of Hood River, Oregon, then by Hain ("Where good brands go to die" – which now makes Westsoy Tempeh, which was originally made by Steve Demos of White Wave and is probably still made at the former White Wave plant in Boulder, Colorado), then (in the natural foods market) Surata Soyfoods (Oregon), Northern Soy / Soyboy (Rochester, New York), Rhapsody (Vermont), Wildwood Natural Foods (Pulmuone, southern California, made by Turtle Island), Bountiful Bean (Madison, Wisconsin), Central Soyfoods (Lawrence, Kansas), 21st Century Foods (Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts), Sweet Earth (Birmingham, Alabama), M Café, and Hearty Vegan (Texas).

2011 – How big is the market for tempeh in the United States?

First, in the natural foods channel / market: Total sales of refrigerated meat alternatives for the year ending Aug. 2011 were at least $51.6 million. 19.3% of this was refrigerated tempeh (up 14.0% over the previous year).

Second, in the mainstream / mass market (including conventional supermarket chains): Sales of refrigerated meat alternatives for the year ending Aug. 2011 were at least $65.9 million. 4.47% of this was refrigerated tempeh (up 14.1% over the previous year).

2011 – Interest in and research on tempeh in the United States and Europe has enhanced the image of tempeh in Indonesia.

2012 June 6 – Development of the first Model Tempeh Shop (Rumah Tempe Indonesia) and Tempeh Cooking School begins in Bogor, Indonesia – a brilliant idea. It is located in TempeLand, Bogor’s amusement park. The goal of the shop is to help traditional Indonesian tempeh makers to make better-quality, more sanitary, more modern tempeh. Before long there are 75 such hygienic shops scattered throughout Indonesia. Details are given in this book.

2013 Dec. 31 – Noble Bean of McDonalds Corners, Ontario, Canada (founded in 1975 by Allan and Susan Brown, the tempeh pioneers in Canada) is sold to Aux Vivres of Montreal, Quebec, Canada (2014 June 17 email from Allan and Susan Brown).

2017 March 10 – Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (Ontario, Canada) completes acquisition of Lightlife Foods (of Turners Falls, Massachusetts) for $140 million. Maple Leaf also establishes Greenleaf, a subsidiary dedicated to building a portfolio of leading plant-based / vegan products. Maple Leaf is Canada’s largest packaged meats company (Maple Leaf News releases).

2019 Jan. – The first Model Tempeh Shop and Tempeh Cooking School open in Bogor, Indonesia.

2020 March – Aux Vivres, a chain of two vegan restaurants in Montreal, founded in 1997 and owned by Mike and Liam Makhan, is now the 2nd largest tempeh maker in North America – after Lightlife. They make four brands of packaged tempeh, much of which is sold in their restaurants as well as throughout Quebec and Canada. www.noblebean.com

2020 March 11 – The World Health Organization (WHO) declares COVID-19 a pandemic. As of Feb. 2022 it is still raging, with (according to WHO) 5.73 million deaths worldwide, including 901,000 in the USA, 501,000 in India, and 631,000 in Brazil.

2020 March – Ger Stevelmans owns the largest tempeh-making company in Europe, located in The Netherlands. It is largely automated. www.tempehting.com

The two largest tempeh-making companies in the world are Tempehting and Lightlife, but it is unclear which of the two is largest.

2021 Feb. 24 – Tempeh is to be produced in many high-tech containers throughout India. The first container is sent to India today, announces Henk Schouten, CEO of Schouten Europe. His company will monitor production and sanitation remotely (Web article).

2022 Feb. – The word “tempeh” is used frequently in many U.S. newspapers as documented by www.newspapers.com and this book.

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Tempeh and Tempeh Products (1815-2022)