VegeBurger goodbye 30 years ago today

It was thirty years ago today that I sold my baby, the VegeBurger, on 8/8/88. Though just six years from launch date, the word “vegeburger” had by then begun to enter the language, a few million would-be vegetarians had leapt out of the closet, the grocery trade recognized vegetarians as a definable market, and restaurants needed something more than a cheese salad on the menu. Several supermarket telephonists directed me to the meat buyer, when I wanted to sell VegeBurger.

The name – I made a list with about eight names on it, including, earthburger, plantburger, vegeburger,  sesame burger, greenburger. It was not obvious, but after carrying it around for a week I went for, you guessed it! You cannot trade mark a descriptive product name (lamb burger or potato cake) and “VegeBurger” did not seem descriptive at the time.  Vege (however the sound is spelled) had never been used to abbreviate vegetarian or vegetable. People into the 1980’s ate meat and 2 veg as a staple meal, not meat and vege. But it became increasingly difficult to protect the trademark and I’ll never forget the mid 80’s Glastonbury Festival when I made four of the ethical caterers change their menu listing  from vegeburger to something else that did not read or sound the same. I remember getting kind of harsh on one occasion.  This is just not what you go to Glastonbury to do.

The fifteen years prior to VegeBurger had seen  my brother Craig and I introducing natural and organic foods to the diet. In 1967, aged 18, I was dishing out bowls of brown rice and vegetables to hungry hippies in front of London’s first head shop, just off the Portobello Road. Restaurant, retail shop and magazinefollowed in the next two years. Fifteen years later I was running Harmony/Whole Earthfoods, in an airplane hanger sized warehouse complete with a trade cash & carry, a stone flour mill, dedicated peanut butter grinding, sugar-free jam making plant, and various other packing and processing operations, staffed by a team of 45 shifting hundreds of tons weekly. It could be a head-banger at times!

VegeBurgerwas a whole new experience, run from my spare bedroom with one part-time helper and all the work being done by outside contractors. They call it a virtual company today. Everything was run on one big interlinked spreadsheet (the original VisiCalc). I had a great time responding to fan mail that often accompanied requests for our VegeBurger mix recipe leaflet. There was the 16-yr old girl in Oban who went veggie six months earlier and had eaten nothing but pizzas since. And the mother of two who was going crazy coping after her two children and then her husband went vegetarian. After discovering VegeBurger she finally gave up and joined them.

Nobody had ever collected the numbers on vegetarians in Britain, so I commissioned Gallup to survey the public on their attitudes to meat eating.  The results were news, and for a change it was news that actually was new. I put press releases out full of graphs and facts and figures, with clever covers that got them read. Each year the numbers grew and the highest numbers were for women aged 16-24. Each year VegeBurger got mentioned in the press reporting the news and more people went into their shops to buy them. The only paid advertising done was on pirate radio, with this cool rap commercial created by Danny Antrobus. (click hereand go to page bottom for VegeBurger Rap)

The original VegeBurger came as a mix that cost 49p and made four 2oz burgers. Even in 1982 that was inexpensive which is how is should be since all the ingredients are lower down the food chain than meat. The ingredients were sesame seeds, wheat gluten, oats, and soya protein with dried vegetables and seasonings, all natural, all vegetable. It could be made with or without an egg.

The frozen VegeBurger came out under license within two years, made under license by Maynards Bakery in Taunton. A few other VB based products such as lasagna and shepherd’s pie accompanied it. For this, we put £5000 into production of a TV commercial, which was cheap as chips in those pre tech days. My whizz-kiddo friend Bonnie Molnar took it on. We had to remove a reference to “cow-burger” which was thought offensive, and remove the phrase “think about it” since the advertising Standards did not allow ads to be “thought provoking.” The advert was a huge success, and had Iceland’s phones ringing off the hook by customers wanting to know if they stocked it.

After five years it reached the point where I was no longer running this from my spare bedroom on an Apple IIe.  I had those fixed overheads again, including three expensive staff in a serviced office, and was tiring of the food industry – spending so much time with suits that I was in danger of becoming one myself. Then there is the “Peter Principle,” which was telling me it was time to move on. Look it up if you’re interested.

Long discussions with Guinness came to an end when their far-sighted ceo, Ernest Saunders, had to resign over letting the company buy its own shares (not allowed). He had been putting together a stable of natural products companies. Next in line was Haldane Foods the subsidiary of a subsidiary or a giant American corporations that few have heard of, called ADM. All solid meat eaters, they sold some disgusting mixes of TVP, hydrogenated fat, MSG, and other stuff in brown bags, labeled ‘Burga-mix’ and ‘Sos-mix.” VegeBurger had the market, they had the money, and they ended up buying it in a deal that would have held me in for ten years.

Other stories ensued. One includes a photo of Gorbachev holding a VegeBurger at ADM’s stall at a food expo in Moscow, where a fight broke out between people wanting free samples after tasting. They had me help launch a new product called quinoa. Another story is of my court case against them and a trip to Chicago (great architecture) to settle the matter.

Eighteen years later the Haldane Group was bought by American company Hain Celestial, who simply killed off VegeBurger and most of the other brands they had bought. No idea why.

Sad story, their loss, but VegeBurger’s work is done. It would be cool to run that Gallup survey again today and compare the results to those that made startling news in the 1980’s.

And me – I went on to open a shop called Strange Attractionsdedicated to the new science dubbed ‘chaos theory’ and to write a couple of gently mind-bendingbooks.

Killing them softly with ice cream

When I was a young man smoking was permissible everywhere. My 8thgrade teacher lived on cigarettes and black coffee, chain-smoking in a class of 13-14 yr olds (Mrs Hogue, excellent educator). Nobody thought it unusual. During my 1967 stay in Stoke Mandeville’s spinal unit, the ward was filled with smoke and the League of Hospital Friends wheeled their trollies through the hospital, selling cigarettes, sweets, and tabloid newspapers (in league with the devil, more like). Taxis, buses, airplanes and cinemas all had ashtrays built into the seats.

Millennials might scratch their heads and look back in astonishment, finding it hard to believe that such practices were ever commonplace and culturally acceptable. And there will be many things that their children will be looking back upon with equal astonishment.

One thing, for sure, will be the appalling phenomenon that mars many a summer afternoon in the garden for me, as I enjoy Sun overhead, blackbird song and the rustle of wind in the trees  It is the sound of an ice cream van traveling around the neighbourhood with a playful tune, pausing in every road as the pushers inside pedal dangerous and addictive drugs to our innocent children.

Sugar consumption is probably responsible for more death and disease (of humans) than any other item in the food chain, processed meat included. It saturates our food chain and it is addictive, as any who have sought to give it up well know. Government knows it is toxic but their hands are tied. According to the New Statesman“They are paralysed by the economic dominance of what British colonialists called ‘white gold’. The sugar industry, like financial services, is too big to fail.”

As if their dangerous edibles were not enough, ice cream vans fill children’s lungs with toxins too, as engines run constantly to power its freezers. The“black carbon” in their exhausts is a soot-like substance that “is particularly dangerous for babies and stunts the growth of children’s lungs as well as causing cancer and dementia,” according to the Daily Mail. Levels can be 40 times the WHO safe limit.

So we think it quaint  to have have vans pollute our neighbourhood on a hot afternoon, selling toxic and addictive treats to children? If opportunities are to be equal then let us have expensive cars with tinted windows touring the neighbourhood blaring rap music and selling cocaine and crack to our teenage kids. Complete the circle.

Have I been on a rant? As the culture changes, maybe remnants of the mafia-like gangs who control ice cream territories will sample some magic mushrooms and see the light. Perhaps they will become entrepreneurs selling healthy treats and nut ice creams to children, or be replaced by people who do, with solar panels instead of chugging diesel.

I am being both silly and serious here since if that is what we want it can and could be provided. Better yet, make them at home. We are moving towards a tipping point at which humanity’s concern for the health of our beautiful host planet will change our interactions with it. Don’t be sold into the myth that raping the planet must be done for us to sustain ourselves. It is an expensive and short-term folly, dictated by the state’s need for expansion ad infinitum, a perfect oxymoron.  Future generations, assuming such exist, will find it difficult to understand how we could have engaged in many of the practices that today we take for granted as normal behaviour.

 

 

High Noon in Queen’s Park

I will be in conversation with former Newsnight Editor Stephen Haggard next Sat, 30th June talking of life without the state, perhaps touching on VegeBurger, living stars and what comes up. It’s a day out in the park at the Queen’s Park Book Festival, with loads of other authors and interesting people speaking, panelling and tickling minds throughout the day. Some are charged and some free including ours, event number 3, on at 12 noon in the Queens Park Community Tent, billed as

LOCAL LEGEND WITH GREG SAMS 

A literary brunch with veggie burger king, fractal artist and New Age entrepreneur Greg Sams (founder of Whole Earth foods, creator of the veggie burger, alternative thinker, published writer, entrepreneur), in conversation with local journalist and former Newsnight Editor Stephen Haggard.    

https://qpbookfest.com/sessions/event-3-local-legend-with-greg-sams/

 

 

 

The Primo Nutmeg interview

Another good interview that is well-illustrated with pics from my own archives and selections by the Nutmeg people. Quite a bit of my life story stuff, with an opening blast at the concept of Limited Liability that allows those who own companies to shirk responsibility for broken commitments and damages inflicted by actions from which they profited. That’s a relatively new ‘invention’ that I have for some time regarded as a curse upon our culture. When I did VegeBurger it was as sole proprietor with unlimited liability for my actions. It does focus the mind and keep one responsible.

Video on Youtube

Video on Soundcloud

Video on Facebook

 

Taxation – how to pluck the goose

While readying words to accompany this Nugget in a Nutshell on taxation I turned up the clearest most concise piece I have yet to read on the subject, by Dominic Frisby, who seamlessly combines his career in financial journalism with that of stand-up comic.      Taxation – in a minute 

Did you know that the UK tax code is ten times longer than the complete works of William Shakespeare? I sum it up in a minute on the video, as what it has always been – a funnel shifting wealth from the many to the few.

Why we need to simplify our tax code – Dominic Frisby

Back in August I took a show to the Edinburgh Festival all about tax. Not perhaps the most fertile subject for comedy – HMRC’s cock-ups aside – but I’d concluded that the dearth of media about such an important subject needed to be put right.

Tax is and has always been power. Whether kings, emperors or governments, if they lose their tax revenue, they lose their power. The aim behind every conquest in history has been to take control of the tax base. The purpose of every revolution is pretty much the same. Every war has been funded by some kind of tax, either before or after the event.

Tax permeates everything that we do. It’s as much a part of our lives as eating, drinking or sleeping. Can you name me an activity – apart from breathing – that doesn’t involve taxation in some way?

I know what you are thinking. All you’re doing by that is creating future taxpayers.

The way that a society is taxed speaks volumes about that society. In the UK taxes are taken at source, by stealth, by force and without choice. So, there’s a relationship between taxation and freedom, as well.

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Why the Western diet sucks

Raising the popular consciousness on food was the primary driving force in my life from the age of 19, when a quirk of fate led me through a series of companies that were the first to offer organically grown natural food products to the British public. My focus was always to accentuate the positive – the greater flavour, satisfaction and vitality of a plant-based diet based on unrefined traditional staples, with seasonal vegetable foods. It was cheaper too. More detail about that activity is on my website.

It was clear, even in 1967/8, that our governments were implicit in the introduction of the factory farm and chemically supported agriculture. In the 1970’s the veil was lifted from my eyes when I learned about the fundamental nature of the state, understanding why they make a mess of things that we could do much better. Yeah, I wrote a book about that one.

So it is most heartening to see aspects of both those interests combined in this illuminating article from the well-respected American Institute for Economic Research.

Why Unhealthy Food Is Cheap and Plentiful

Every health nut will tell you the reason why the US food market is such a mess. It’s fast food and corporate farming. We need to get back to local food and organics, they say. And no processed foods ever.

Let’s look more closely, based on an experience I had just today.

The waiter in this airport bar walked by carrying huge plates of food, piled high with fries and burgers on puffy golden buns…

 

Continue reading…

Stateless on the BBC. That’s irony.

At the end of last year I was asked to describe a positive vision of the future for “Newtopia,” an online BBC channel. An exciting first job of 2018 and, of course, I went for a world without the state, stressing the positive and not dwelling on the negatives (just listen to the news for that).

The challenge was to compress my entire book into 2.5 minutes of audio. Phew! It would have been easier to produce 60 minutes. Feeling good about being most viewed of the five visions up there.

So here it is. Enjoy.
What would life be like without the state?

All the best,
Gregory Sams

 

 

 

Faking it for War

Fake WMD took us to war in Iraq and disastrous conflicts throughout the Middle East, none of them justified. It was looking like we were about to see these conflicts finally come to a end.

Now, alleged chemical attacks on the last active terrorists in Syria are being used to justify Western intervention that prolongs a vicious campaign aimed at making Syria an Islamic state. The last remaining militants in Douma,  Eastern Ghouta, are the Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam), supplied and funded by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are great friends with America and Britain, and their largest customer for military equipment.

The voracious war machines of America and Britain are threatened not by any enemy, but by the absence of one. This conflict is good news for the military and arms industries. Israel hates Syria and Iran, and would like to see those strong nations collapsed and fragmented. The media has leapt onto the bandwagon, laying blame for this “alleged” attack on Syria and, ominously, Russia and Iran. Their crime is to support the Syrian government in its fight against an array of Islamic fighters who would stop at nothing to impose their version of Islam on that secular nation.  Israel has already attacked an unrelated Syrian airfield, in response to this unfounded allegation.

Not for a moment could the Trumps, Theresa Mays, and Macrons of this world believe that Assad launched this attack. It is as clearly fake as the WMD for which there was never evidence. For the legitimate Syrian government the battle for Damascus was virtually over, with 90% of Eastern Ghouta recaptured, with the militants and their families safely evacuated to Idlib Province, allowed to keep their belongings, including their personal handgun or AK-47.

Only Douma was still controlled by the Army of Islam, who held 3,500 hostages  prisoner, mostly Syrian military, their family, or sympathisers. They rained shells upon Damascus daily, and received return bombardment, but had no chance of military victory, none whatsoever. There was only one strategy that could prolong the struggle – to bring in Western military support. Their only way to prompt this was a staged chemical weapons attack, choreographed by the infamous White Helmets, who have form on this. It is alleged that real victims were taken from their hostage stock. The White Helmets were extensively trained by their Western backers in the arts of propaganda, and make great use of children.

After their final fling, even the Army of Islam now appears to be leaving Douma under safe conduct. With no rational reason whatsoever to rain rockets on Syria, some emotional video provides the excuse for our macho leaders to make war on that ancient cradle of civilization. President Trump’s reputation is on the line, with May and Macron wanting in on the act. This is more like bukakke than war, unless Russia becomes engaged, in which case the military will have their hot war, may the gods help us.

Our ruling elite want Russia back as a fearful enemy and magnifies or fabricates whatever it it can to foster this unfounded paranoia.  Back when Russia threatened to spread communism across the free West, Americans understandably built bomb shelters and proudly proclaimed that they’d rather be dead than red.  The US kept a fleet of nuclear laden B-52 bombers in the air 24/7, just in case.  It was an ideological clash that ended in 1991 with the dissolution of communism and the Soviet Union. But Russia was the best enemy the West ever had, and we witness a monumental effort to re-instate it as a fearful threat to our democracy, way of life, and cyber security. Hogwash.

They just keep faking news to make war! The first Gulf War was fuelled by an emotional report of babies being taken out of incubators by Iraqi forces. A public relations firm created that story, using the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter as the video “witness.” The second Iraq war was based on fake WMD. Destruction of Libya based on a phoney attempt to protect the people of Libya from their evil ruler.  Ditto Syria, a successful secular nation with a strong army having no mission other than to protect its homeland.

All this calculated conflict is funded by our hard-earned taxes, and sadly, this is what ruling elites do and have done for a millennia or two. Without our fear of the enemy, we might start questioning the need to be owned by a big shepherd and directed by their sheepdogs – dogs well trained to do whatever they are told. We might stop worrying about what we would do without the state and start wondering about what we could do in a state of connection and freedom.

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Yes, I wrote a book that takes this further, so if you wonder whether we could live successfully in a state of freedom, without the protection of men in uniforms, then do check it out. It’s as fresh today as the day it was written, and even more relevant. For a 2.5 minute condensation, go to this BBC Newtopias page.

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The wheel needs a whole new hub, not just another revolution.

All shares consciousness – not just us

Some top scientific thinkers are now recognizing the all infusing consciousness that permeates even inanimate matter. In my book, Sun of gOd, I look at its presence in grains of sand and galaxies, electrons and weather systems, revealing a Universe incorporating both intelligence and design without need of any Intelligent Designer.

Adding to the subject, journalist Olivia Goldhill writes of increasing academic credibility given to panpsychism, quoting Philip Goff as saying “Consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter; every single particle in existence has an “unimaginably simple” form of consciousness.”  Centuries of scientific taboo begin to crumble.

In the chapter of my book dedicated to inanimate intelligence I cover many of the bases that scientists are now reaching. There follow a few selected paragraphs, penned ten years ago, followed by the article in Quartz.

“Inanimate intelligence – is stuff smarter than we think?” (snippets)

…The more that science discovers about the inner workings and strategies of the vegetable world the more and more probable it seems that intelligence does pervade the entire living world, from mankind to microbe, from tree to fungi. But what about the inanimate world of rocks and mountains, grains of sand and crystals, winds and hurricanes, blazing stars?

…From the traditional viewpoint of the animist, a universal consciousness permeates every particle of matter in the Universe, from the electrons in your socks to the thundercloud about to soak them. If these particles of matter do possess some awareness of being, some miniscule micro-bit of consciousness, it becomes less surprising that they are able to self-organize into something with form and order, something with behaviour that seems intelligent. This “something” might be a whole weather system or a single thundercloud, an ocean or a rolling river, a mountain range or an ordered beach, a star or a volcano.

…Mountaineers and seafarers have long attributed character and personality to the realms they explore, as did the early astronomers, before the thought of it was banned. Without allowing for anything other than brain-based intelligence, we must view all this stuff as chemical and physical reactions, accidentally bringing about complex functioning phenomena, some of which are even able to support intelligent life.

…A giant ocean full of intelligence might be dependent upon that which exists within its every drop. If we can accept James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis of a global planetary system operating as though there is intelligence at play, then we can logically accept that the sub-components of this system form an integral part of that intelligence. We recognize a similar concept in the group intelligence of a termite mound or a slime mould, seeing it as a composite of its individual components. Perhaps intelligence will always be a by-product of consciousness – perhaps even it is the purpose of consciousness.

…Although it might appear simplistic, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the reason things “hang together” so well is because every thing contains some measure of intelligence, together with an awareness of being, belonging and form. Until they are willing to include intelligence in their considerations, scientists may never be able to explain how natural phenomena from slime moulds to weather systems to stars manage to achieve and maintain their incredible feats of self-organization.

Article from QUARTZ, by Olivia Goldhill
The idea that everything from spoons to stones are conscious is gaining academic credibility

Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it’s the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter.

This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the “panpsychist” view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose.

“Why should we think common sense is a good guide to what the universe is like?” says Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. “Einstein tells us weird things about the nature of time that counters common sense; quantum mechanics runs counter to common sense. Our intuitive reaction isn’t necessarily a good guide to the nature of reality.”

David Chalmers, a philosophy of mind professor at New York University, laid out the “hard problem of consciousness” in 1995, demonstrating that there was still no answer to the question of what causes consciousness. Traditionally, two dominant perspectives, materialism and dualism, have provided a framework for solving this problem. Both lead to seemingly intractable complications.

To continue reading click here


 

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It’s about self-organising consciousness

 

My VegeBurger on BBC World Service

Excellent piece on my game-changing VegeBurger, broadcast by the BBC World Service yesterday. Nine action-packed minutes, prompted by “Veganuary.” Well worth a listen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csvtvz

The VegeBurger

Witness

In 1982, American entrepreneur Gregory Sams launched a product that would help take vegetarianism into the mainstream in the UK. “VegeBurgers” were cheap, tasty and a deliberate attempt to provide a meat-free alternative to one of the mainstays of the fast food industry. Gregory Sams talks to Simon Watts.

first broadcast 08:50 Thursday 25 January.