The Untold Truth Of Vegenaise

Vegenaise is a vegan mayonnaise product made by the brand Follow Your Heart, but thanks to its widespread popularity, it's become an all-encompassing term for egg-free mayo. As one of the first vegan condiments available — and one of the best — it deserves ownership of this common nomenclature.

Despite the popularity of Vegenaise, you probably didn't know that the brand was started by a group of friends in Southern California in the '70s — or that it's grown beyond any of their wildest dreams. In the beginning, veganism wasn't nearly as popular as it is today, but Michael Besancon, Bob Goldberg, Spencer Windbiel, and Paul Lewin, the original founders, wanted to build a business model that reflected their ethics.

"We very much believed in what we were doing," Goldberg told Food Dive. "That it was the right thing to do, that it's the right thing for the planet, the right thing for animals. ... So that was what was motivating us at the time. Not a dream of getting wildly wealthy or any of that kind of thing. It was just right."

It started with a scam

In 1970, the founders of Follow Your Heart opened up a vegan sandwich shop in Southern California. Their "Love Plate," featuring an avocado, tomato, and sprouts sandwich, instantly became a crowd favorite, and it's still sold there today.

But back then, they used what they thought was an eggless mayonnaise to add extra flavor to their sandwiches; little did they know, the magic vegan mayonnaise was actually made with eggs — only the labels had been replaced.

Desperate for a real vegan version of the condiment, the Follow Your Heart crew got to work developing their own egg-free mayonnaise. Just as Bob Goldberg, one of the original founders, was about to give up on the idea altogether, he had an insight in a dream, and the next day, Veganaise became a reality. Though it took months to perfect, before long, Veganaise was bottled and sold to scores of their eager customers (via Follow Your Heart).

If you thought aioli was only for non-vegans ... think again

While once aioli was merely a distant dream for vegans, the Follow Your Heart brand has provided an opportunity — many, in fact — for vegans to get in on the fun. These days "Vegenaise" refers to all kinds of different mayonnaise substitutes, all of which are dairy- and egg-free. If it's aioli you're after, check out the Organic Garlic Aioli Vegenaise. If you have a taste for spicy sauces, the Sriracha Vegenaise will add heat to your favorite meatless (or meaty!) sandwich. Pesto, horseradish, and tartar sauce are also available from Follow Your Heart.

While most people associate Follow Your Heart with vegan mayo, the company also sells a wide variety of other vegan products. Their egg substitute comes in a real egg carton, and their vegan yogurt and sour cream use coconut milk as a base. Follow Your Heart also has one of the best selections of vegan cheeses around, from classics like cheddar and mozzarella to smoked gouda and feta crumbles (via Follow Your Heart).

Following your heart can pay off

When Bob Goldberg was just 25 years old, he and three friends opened a vegetarian café in the back of a natural foods grocery store. This was before veganism was widely popular, so no one expected the shop to last long. But as the team gained recognition from vegetarian customers, they decided to take over the grocery store as well.

Though many people said it was a bad idea, Goldberg and his team reopened without any of the meat products the grocery store once sold. But instead of causing a drop in sales, this move actually increased interest in the store, and the four founders became incredibly successful — so much so that their products are still sold today, almost 50 years later.

"I think what people hadn't realized was how comfortable it is for somebody who doesn't want to be around those [meat] products to go to a store where they can eat anything," Goldberg said (via BBC).

It's healthier than real mayo

If you're trying to avoid the high fats found in regular mayonnaise, you might want to try Vegenaise for your sandwiches, even if you aren't vegan. According to Slate, you won't miss much in terms of flavor — in fact, many people find that Vegenaise tastes better than the average mayo. It also contains less saturated fat and cholesterol than its egg-based ancestor.

Even though you can make mayonnaise with just oil, eggs, and lemon, most popular mayo brands have ingredient lists far longer than that. Miracle Whip, for example, contains not only high fructose corn syrup, but also potassium sorbate, a chemical preservative. In just one tablespoon, Miracle Whip packs a whopping 130mg of sodium; in comparison, the same amount of Vegenaise has just 70mg (via Eat This, Not That). The list of ingredients on a Vegenaise container is full of recognizable foods, some of which — like canola oil and lemon juice — you might already have in your kitchen.

It's solar-powered

When the Follow Your Heart company moved to their current manufacturing location (nicknamed Earth Island) in Southern California back in 2003, they got to work installing solar panels on the roof of the building. There were over 750 panels that generated over 100 kilowatt-hours of energy per year, which at that time was more than enough for their purposes. The company sold their extra energy back to the city in those days, but soon enough, Follow Your Heart's energy demands surpassed what was available from the solar panels — so they built more. Today, Earth Island has over 2,000 solar panels (via Follow Your Heart).

The company is dedicated to upholding high standards for green operation even as they've grown well past the founders' original expectations. According to Forbes, the company is in the process of making all of their product containers recyclable in order to ensure none of their waste ends up in landfills.