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History Of Erewhon: Natural Foods Pioneer In The United States

January 8, 2010

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Aveline Kushi, founder (with husband, Michio) and sole owner kneels front row far right

Released in April of 2006 is a free online reference book (in downloadable PDF format) on the “The History Of Erewhon: Natural Foods Pioneer In The United States” that was written and prepared by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, authors of “The Book Of Tofu” and other similar titles. The book was put together with the help of former Erewhon employee, Patricia Smith and my father’s (Michio Kushi) office along with many others who were involved in Erewhon over the years.

The name “Erewhon” (“nowhere” spelt backwards -with the “w” and the “h” switched) comes from Samuel Butler’s book of the same name about a fictitious utopian world where the sick were thrown in jail for violating nature’s laws and the criminals were sent to the hospital. The book was a favorite of macrobiotic teacher, George Ohsawa.

Erewhon, with the help of its many forward thinking employees, began the natural and organic foods industry in the United States. when it opened its doors in April of 1966 in Boston. It contacted many farmers and growers and asked them to grow organic crops for the first time.  Many former employees left Erewhon and started many other companies and brand names that are now familiar in every Whole Food Supermarket.

Erewhon introduced whole cereal grains and beans as a bulk commodity in natural foods stores along with quality Japanese traditional foods.  It also introduced items such as whole wheat flour,  natural peanut butter, packaged granola and many other items.

Today, Erewhon is known only as a brand name for some whole grains cereals and as a natural whole food supermarket in the Los Angeles area but the whole of the natural and organic foods industry owes it’s start to macrobiotics and the work of the many employees of Erewhon.

Some of the many food companies and brand names inspired by macrobiotics include:

  1. Erewhon
  2. Eden Foods
  3. Westbrae
  4. Nasoya
  5. Imagine Foods
  6. Grainassance
  7. Traditional Medicinals
  8. Aubrey Organics
  9. Lundberg Family Farms
  10. Whole Food Supermarkets
  11. Muso Foods (Japan)
  12. Mitoku (Japan)
  13. Lima Foods (Belgium)

And many, many more…

Many thanks to William and Akiko and to Patricia Smith for documenting this bit of history for everyone to read!

Do you like what you read here? Would you like to read more? Help me by clicking this link: DONATE Thanks!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2010 12:59 pm

    Among the ‘many, many more’ was Harmony Foods, founded in 1967 in London and which rebranded Whole Earth Foods and launched Green & Black’s chocolate, 2 leading global organic food brands.

  2. May 7, 2011 5:03 pm

    Hello Phiya: On January 8, 2010, you posted a blog with a link about the FIRST edition of our book “History of Erewhon.” After releasing the SECOND edition earlier this month (May 2011) we deleted the link to the FIRST edition. So your link no longer works.
    The 2nd edition of the book is much more complete than the 1st and contains almost 100 photos – whereas the 1st edition had none.
    The 2nd edition is also free and in PDF format.
    I would be grateful if you would (1) Fix the broken link and (2) introduce your readers to the new edition. BTW, your brother Norio was of tremendous help to us in creating this 2nd edition.
    Thank you,
    Bill Shurtleff
    Soyinfo Center

  3. Evon permalink
    January 8, 2015 1:35 pm

    In 1969, I bought a wonderful blue enamel covered pressure cooker. I loved it however, over the years it has been lost in several moves. I don’t remember the brand. Can you help me with this? Is the cooker even being made anymore?

  4. Evon permalink
    January 8, 2015 1:36 pm

    I bought the pressure cooker at the Erehwon market in Boston.

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