Gregory Sams
Gregory Sams
Sun of God - Coming Soon! Click here for more details
The life and times of Gregory Sams
Gregory's published accounts of historical and hysterical events and ideas
He saved a lot of cows, before turning to words
Worlds only shop dedicated to chaos theory
Pictures from the author's travels in fractal galixies and computer graphics

The Vegeburger Story

Based upon a response from Gregory responding to a question on the origin of the VegeBurger.

The VegeBurger was, actually, prompted by a case of hepatitis that had me house-bound for the last few months of 1981. For the fifteen years prior to that, in conjunction with brother Craig, I had been running various natural foods businesses, each one the first of its kind in the country. It started when I opened Seed Restaurant in 1968 at the age of 19, progressing to CERES natural food store on the Portobello Rd. This then led to the importation, manufacture, and distribution of natural products through Harmony Foods - which evolved into Whole Earth Foods. Publishing and cafes, a bakery and a bookshop, pop festival catering and all sorts were included in the mix over the years. Mom helped cook in the very first days of the restaurant and dad published Seed, the Journal of Organic Living for six years. All of this set the scene for the VegeBurger to be such an instant success. By 1982 I was full-time day and night running Harmony Foods/Whole Earth with Craig as Marketing Director. We sold hundreds of tons of natural foods every week but were in tight financial straights.

In 1981 I returned from a trip to Colorado's Rocky Mountains and came down with hepatitis. The only way to cure it was an enforced stay-at-home rest from the frenzy of keeping up with the relentless demands of Harmony Foods. With this enforced 'free' time I decided to work on something which could breathe life into the company without being a drain on its resources. I wanted something unlike our huge range of grains and beans and seeds and basic products, but still appealing to the same market.

Having been brought up by a health-conscious mother, and been a vegetarian from the age of 10, I had never even tried a hamburger, but the idea of creating an alternative to the hamburger with an easy-to-make mix appealed to me as being quite unlike bagging up beans (there will always be somebody who can put a pound of beans in a bag for less than you). I spent about four months experimenting with different ingredients and mixes, working on texture first, and then the vegetables, herbs and seasoning. It was after about three months that I knew I was getting close when my long-suffering wife Sandy asked for a second bite of the latest sample forced upon her.

There was nothing on the market then that provided a natural alternative to the hamburger, and the product needed a name. I wrote out a list one evening of the options, including Soyburger, Plantburger, Sesameburger, VegeBurger, Earthburger and Greenburger. They all sounded strange at the time but after a few days 'VegeBurger' came to the fore. As a completely new word, which did not seem descriptive, it was not a problem to register it as the trade mark VegeBurger�. Vegetarians were not yet termed Veggies.

The burger was launched in March 1982 under the Whole Earth label but our bankers and backers were not impressed. I wanted to devote myself to this new 'baby' and, by the 18th of June 1982, I had negotiated myself a resignation as Chairman and M.D. of Whole Earth Foods. I gave my shares to brother Craig who developed the company into Whole Earth Foods and later launched Green & Blacks chocolate.

I set up my dream virtual business, trading as The Realeat Company. It was all managed from an in-house office conversion, utilizing reliable outside contractors and having no staff. This allowed me to spend my time demonstrating, promoting and marketing. I had no bureaucracy, no fixed overheads, and things flowed accordingly.

The VegeBurger quickly became a national success, especially boosted by the press coverage it received following release of the 1st Realeat Survey in 1983, commissioned to tie in with the launch of the frozen VegeBurger� . This study, commissioned through Gallup, provided the first vegetarian head-count in the UK, together with a survey of public attitudes to meat consumption. The product was on television, radio and newspapers to such a degree that, when I wasn't being interviewed on radio or responding to a press query, all my time was spent keeping retailers stocked with the new hit. The survey also brought a lot of vegetarians 'out of the closet,' especially young women who realized they were not alone in their aversion to meat.

The secret of the VegeBurger was simple in retrospect. It had a better flavour than your average beefburger, cost you less, and made you feel a whole lot better - all done with natural ingredients.

I sold the Realeat Company on the 8th August �88 and left the food industry altogether, looking back on the time spent in it with great satisfaction.
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