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Natural Living

Follow Your Heart

From their humble beginnings in a local sandwich shop, the creators of the original vegan mayonnaise (Vegenaise) remain true to their roots 50 years on.

Do you remember the Age of Aquarius? Flower Power? The Summer of Love? I admit that I do, with fond nostalgia. But unless you’re past a “certain age,” it’s probably just a festive footnote in not-so-recent history for you.

Photo: Bob Goldberg

Humor me, and let’s go back to 1970, the San Fernando Valley in sunny Southern California. A bunch of musically inclined “hippies” band together to open a tiny seven-seat sandwich counter in the back of a local natural foods store—vegetarian of course, in keeping with the times.

Fast-forward a few years, and they move down the street to a larger location, ironically into a former butcher shop—karmic cleansing at its best. Along the way, they’ve created a vegan mayonnaise to embellish their now-iconic Avocado, Tomato, & Sprouts Sandwich.

Now let’s hold that “forward” button down and whir ahead to today. That Follow Your Heart sandwich shop is still there as an expanded café, still offering vegetarian and vegan fare to the community. And one of the original founders, Bob Goldberg, is still in the saddle, pursuing his passion. “It’s still the same values that underlie everything that we do. Everyone should have access to healthy affordable foods.”

Photo: Bob Goldberg

Rooted in Values

But the setting for those values has grown exponentially. Now Vegenaise is the original and No. 1 vegan mayonnaise, available everywhere. It’s joined by a delicious roster of vegan nondairy products, from cheeses and sour cream to yogurts and salad dressings, that can be found in stores nationwide.

Everything Follow Your Heart does emanates from its own solar-powered facility, Earth Island, and the company’s mission is serious and far-ranging. Follow Your Heart aims not simply to offer clean healthy foods, but to be a leader in the ethical, social, and environmental responsibilities of operating a business. “We have an obligation to be good stewards of the planet and the environment,” says Goldberg. “And we must help to create good lives for our employees and our customers.”

With an entire department focused on sustainability initiatives, Follow Your Heart is the first plant-based facility in the U.S. to achieve Platinum Level Zero Waste Certification. They now divert over 98 percent of their waste from landfills through recycling, composting, reduction, and reuse.

Despite its prestigious international footprint, Follow your Heart’s … um … heart is still firmly rooted in the local community. From offering free electric car charging for its employees to organizing volunteer events for local nonprofits like Food Forward, Heal The Bay, and Tree People, Goldberg and his company are determined to stay true to their “hippie” roots.

Happily, his passion remains undiminished by time. “The store keeps us close to our customers, like we’ve always been. It’s as personal now as it was 50 years ago. I believe it’s time for every business to contribute to changing the world for the better.”

I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan

Over the past 50 years, Follow Your Heart has kept pace with the increasing popularity of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles by greatly expanding its product lines. Along with their original Vegenaise, the company now offers a wide variety of animal-friendly products, including Dairy-Free Sour Cream and Dairy-Free Cream Cheese.

Make It! Festive Vegan Herbed Spinach Dip

Festive Vegan Herbed Spinach Dip Recipe
Photo: Adobe Stock

Looking for the vegan dip of your dreams? This is it! Serve with fresh veggies and your favorite crackers.

Get the recipe.