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British Industrial History

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Soya Flour Manufacturing Co

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1929. British Industries Fair catalogue.

of 7 Mincing Lane, London, EC3. Telephone: Royal 7565. Cables: "Soyolk, Fen, London". (1929)

  • The most influential early manufacturer of soy flour in Britain, and one of the most influential in Europe, was the Soya Flour Manufacturing Co.
  • The popularity of soy flour in Britain, pioneered by the Soy Flour Manufacturing Co and Soya Foods quickly attracted other companies into the field.
  • 1928 The company was founded as a private limited company. The two main owners were the brothers J. C. Ferree and C. J. Ferree, both rubber merchants of Dutch nationality, who each owned 40% of the company's original stock. Together with Dr. Hans Pick, an analytical chemist from Vienna, they formed the original board of directors.
  • 1929 The company completed a factory at 7 Mincing Lane, in north London, and began to make Soyolk brand whole soy flour using the Berczeller process, under license. Soyolk was heavily promoted as a bread improver from February 1929 onwards, with newspaper ads and extensive media coverage. C. J. Ferree published important books on soy flour, first in Dutch and then (with help) in English. The latter work, The Soya Bean and the New Soya Flour, did much to help both soy flour and the company's sales.
  • 1929 British Industries Fair Advert for 'Soyolk' Soya Flour. Manufacturers of Soya Flour. Made by our patent process. Keeps indefinitely, pleasant to taste, contains 20% fat, soluble dextrine and sugars, vitamins and lecithin and no starch. The World's Most Perfect Food. (Foodstuffs etc. - Stand No. L.1) [1]
  • 1930 Mrs. Ettie Hornibrook published two long articles for British housewives about Soyolk, one describing its use in diabetic diets and the other its use with fruit in jams as a sugar substitute.
  • By 1931 sales of Soyolk were growing rapidly; they increased by 53% during the first 6 months of that year alone.
  • 1932 The registered company was moved to Springwell Flour Factory, Springwell Lane, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, but for some reason troubles began. By late 1932 the company went into receivership, although it was not formally dissolved until 1942.
  • 1933 The Soya Flour Manufacturing Co Ltd changed its name and became Soya Foods Ltd, with J. C. Ferree still Chairman and Managing Director. The new company, with offices and plant still at Rickmansworth, chose a yin-yang symbol as its trademark and displayed it prominently on a 20-page booklet about Soyolk published that year. The booklet also described Soyolk Bread (22% Soyolk and 78% wheat flour) and mentioned a free recipe book. Ferree founded Soya Overseas Development Co, which was composed of the growing number of soyfoods/soy flour manufacturers in Britain.
  • During the war years, (until 1952), soybeans were rationed by the Oil and Fats Division of the Ministry of Foods.
  • 1940 As early as 1940 Helen Mackay, in England, had done nutritional research on Yolac, a mixture of soy flour and dried milk, which served as an inexpensive substitute for breast milk.
  • 1941 In September, as World War II increased in intensity, Soya Foods moved its offices to Boreham Holt, Elstree, leaving only the mills at Rickmansworth. During the war, the company promoted its products actively in response to a strong demand. To the popular Soyolk were added new products including Diasoy (a special soy flour for breads), Soypro (a low-fat soy flour), Diazyme (a yeast food and improver), and Soylac (a finely ground flour used like milk in cakes and confections, made until 1952).
  • In March 1941 the US Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, approving $7 billion in military credits for Britain, and giving the President authority to transfer food and equipment, rather than money, directly to nations whose defense was vital to the US. The British made prompt requests for Lend-Lease soy flour, as well as for soybeans to make their own soy flour. They began to incorporate soy flour in increasing quantities into their breads and sausages, marzipan, and spaghetti. In addition, American meat packers provided sausages containing 20% soy flour to the British army. These foods, consumed by both the army and civilians, were accepted as a wartime necessity, but were not relished.
  • By 1943 the US was exporting 9,868 tonnes of soy flour under Lend-Lease, primarily to Great Britain and the USSR. A host of new foods containing soy flour and grits were also being shipped and consumed in huge quantities: pea soya soup, cheese-soya soup, oat soya cereal, whole wheat soya cereal, wheat-soya-egg macaroni, and pork soya sausage links . In addition, Britain's three major soy flour manufacturers (Soya Foods Ltd., British Arkady Co, and British Soya Products) did a booming business and promoted their products widely.
  • After the war, large quantities of soy flour were shipped from America to Europe as part of the huge relief efforts, to extend meager protein supplies and prevent starvation in war-torn countries whose animal populations had been largely destroyed. In 1948, the peak year for US soy flour production and exports, America shipped 248,409 tonnes of soy flour abroad, mostly to Europe, under the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Thereafter relief shipments tapered off sharply. During the austere postwar period, European food processors, using soy flour to extend sausages and other meats, frequently overused it or misused it.
  • 1945 Soya Foods was purchased by Spillers and offices were moved to London, with the plant still at Rickmansworth. New products were added by Spillers. Mr. J. C. Ferree remained Chairman and Managing Director of Soya Foods until 1948, when he stepped down, finally leaving the company in March 1952 to work on other projects.
  • 1950s The company expanded further and, with a new plant in Cardiff, south Wales) added solvent-extracted soy flour and meal, plus degummed soy oil to its product line.
  • 1956, The Wales plant was relocated in Bermondsey, SE London.
  • By 1966 an estimated 20,000 tonnes of whole soy flour were being used in the UK each year and over 90% of the bread produced there was thought to contain soy flour.
  • In 1968, Soya Foods rebuilt and modernized its plant at Bermondsey, SE London, which by the early 1980s was producing some 16 varieties of soy flour.
  • By the mid-1970s it was rare to find a bread recipe in England that did not contain soy flour, especially the enzyme-active type. Most soy flour manufacturers made a range of products, each suited to specific applications.
  • As of 1984, the major British manufacturers of whole and defatted soy flours were the same three that had dominated the field since the early 1930s. The perennial Soyolk, whose popularity was revitalized by a new interest in natural foods, was advertised proudly as a "natural, full-fibre and full-fat flour".


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Advert 48; and p156
  • [1] Soy Info Centre