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The History of Veggie Burgers

In the late 1960s, Gregory Sams opened SEED, a macrobiotic restaurant in London. (John Lennon and Yoko Ono were regulars!) Sams made his first meatless patty for his customers at SEED using seitan, tamari, aduki beans, and oat flakes. At the time, Gregory and his brother Craig were both exploring other ventures in addition to SEED, and they eventually united everything under the Harmony Foods brand. However, after a while, they ran into financial trouble. Gregory Sams realized that there was a need for an inexpensive alternative meat product on grocery store shelves and saw an opportunity to save his company from financial ruin by creating this product. He spent six months getting the ratio of wheat gluten, sesame, soy, and oats right. Then he added dried herbs, tomato, and onion. He called the finished product the “VegeBurger.” He first sold the product in 1982 as a dry mix that you would rehydrate, form into a patty, and cook. Once he nailed the recipe, he sold his shares of Harmony Foods and launched the Realeat Company. In 1984, he started selling a frozen version of his VegeBurger. Though recipes for vegetable-based burgers without meat date back to at least 1969, the VegeBurger was the first meatless patty to enter the commercial food market and achieve success. Others soon followed, including the Gardenburger and the Boca Burger, which both came out in the 1990s. With 7.3 million Americans identifying as vegetarians as of 2013, veggie burgers have only grown more popular since Sams first marketed his VegeBurger in the ‘80s.

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