History of Tofu - Page 6

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi

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The New England Soy Dairy (Tomsun Foods, Inc.) . One of the earliest, most successful, and best known of the new breed of tofu companies was the New England Soy Dairy, which was originally founded as the Laughing Grasshopper Tofu Shop in June 1976 at 3 Main Street in the sleepy little new England paper-mill town of Millers Falls, Massachusetts. The founders, Richard and Kathy Leviton, were, at that time, running the successful Corncreek Whole Grain Bakery, which they had started in the spring of 1974. The Levitons found that their 100 bread accounts were eager to stock tofu. In August 1976 Tom Timmins joined the partnership; he had run a natural food store and managed sales for a natural food distributor (which?? Llama??). In February 1977 a fourth partner, Michael Cohen, joined; he had lived on a satellite community of The Farm, where he learned to make soyfoods. This combination of diverse talents and experiences proved helpful in starting and running the business. (Richard and Kathy ran the two businesses until August 1977, when they closed Corncreek due to a continuing labor dispute.) Laughing Grasshopper's stated purpose was to make reasonably-priced, high-quality natural nigari tofu in the traditional Japanese way using small-is-beautiful technology. In September the group got a $7,500 five-year bank loan to bolster $6,200 of their own pooled money, and proceeded to rent a two-room 1,000-square-foot shop (with handsome wooden floors) and to equip it with a large Hobart VCM to grind the beans, four 15-gallon stainless steel pots set over four gas burners to cook the slurry, a solid-oak apple cider press to extract the soymilk, hand-made oak curding barrels (cider barrels) and forming boxes, and cedar soaking barrels from a Maine lobster supply house. The "old fashioned" shop was a joy to behold.

The first batch of Laughing Grasshopper tofu was produced on 12 January 1977, a Saturday, and initial output was 300 to 1,000 pounds a week. The young craftsmen, bypassing the traditional Japanese 8-year apprenticeship and having made tofu five times before opening, learned as they went along, following instructions in a rough draft edition of Tofu & Soymilk Production and benefiting from their daily mistakes. But before long, things started to go awry. Heaving the many heavy pressing sacks onto their cider press, they found, required almost superhuman physical conditioning, and left them exhausted and with aching backs at the end of each day. The wooden soaking and curding barrels warped badly, absorbed some of the curds, began to rot, and generally were highly unsanitary and too heavy to handle. The forming boxes warped and pulled apart at the seams. The pressing sacks occasionally sprang leaks, tore open at the seams, and sprayed okara all over the shop and workers. The floor warped (especially after 1 month, when the drains clogged permanently) and water dripped through into the room below onto the landlord's stored art materials; the landlord, who often showed up drunk, shut off the water and threatened a lawsuit. The smell of tofu-making seeped into the town library, which was in the same building, drawing complaints. Town and state health inspectors, concerned with the unsanitary conditions, kept a close eye on the operation. The sheet rock walls slowly began to crumble. In the process of overcoming these and many other unforeseen difficulties, the young craftsmen quickly became proficient in the art of making fine nigari tofu. Timmins later remarked, "Only willpower and dedication kept us going." Many other early tofu shops in America experienced somewhat the same types of difficulties.

Yet despite all these problems, business was booming. At the end of their first year in business (Jan. 1978) the little company was employing 10 people, each working 40 hours per 7-day week, and making over 7,000 pounds of tofu a week. They packed it in plastic-lined 5-gallon plastic pails, kept it overnight in a 10-by-10 foot self-built cooler, then delivered it in their own van two to four times a week to over 100 small food stores, restaurants, and supermarkets in Boston and western Massachusetts. Sales for the first year were an impressive $75,000 gross. The company was already planning a first expansion and a new image (Timmins 1978??).

In November 1977 Laughing Grasshopper was incorporated and the name was changed to the New England Soy Dairy. Tom Timmins became the president, $45,000 of new capital was raised, and operations were moved to 305 Wells St., Greenfield, Massachusetts. In this former spray nozzle factory, with 3,300 square feet of production space plus plenty of storage and office space, the company started production on 31 January 1978, using a new $5,000 pressure cooker system purchased from Japan. They continued to make their one product, regular nigari tofu (9.8% protein), water-packed in bulk plastic pails. The company got its first big supermarket chain account in February 1978 with the Food Mart Division of Waldbaums in New York. In March 1978 a packaging machine arrived and their first tofu, water packed in tubs, was sold. By July 1978 a host of new products were under development or consideration: soymilk, soy mayo (soymilk-based mayonnaise), tofu dips, deep-fried spicy tofu, and tempeh. By late 1978 soymilk ice cream, soy yogurt, creamy tofu puddings, and soy cheeses were added to the list to be developed (Leviton 1979).

As a highly visible and prosperous example of America's thriving new tofu industry, the company garnered (through their media contact person, Richard Leviton) immense amounts of free media publicity, including major articles in The New York Times (Wells 1978), East West Journal (Bellichi 1978), Whole Foods (Leviton 1979), The Wall Street Journal (Bulkeley 1979), In Business (Hundley 1979) and the like, plus a small article in Time magazine (1980). In addition the Soy Dairy had some nice publications of its own; a 4-page pamphlet called "Laughing Grasshopper Tofu Recipes" (1977), a Product and Merchandising Guide, three "Cooking with Soy Dairy Tofu" recipe flyers, and a large color poster showing favorite recipes and their packages (all 1979).

By early 1979 the company was employing 21 people, including 5 owners who constituted the board of directors. Leviton worked part time from January to April, then left April 15 to spend full time with the Soyfoods Association and Soyfoods magazine. It was already time for another major expansion, so between August 1979 and July 1980 the Soy Dairy pieced together a big modern system for making tofu and soymilk. It consisted of a Rietz disintegrator, a Sweco-Brown extractor, and an Okita continuous cooker. To pay for the expansion, the Soy Dairy secured loans for $350,000 between May and July of 1980. Earlier that year, in February, the Soy Dairy held America's first soyfoods press conference, attended by 35 East Coast food editors. At Boston's elegant Seventh Inn, they served an elaborate soyfoods menu, handed out information, and showed slides. This generated extensive media publicity. Also the company became the first in the US tofu industry to install a quality control laboratory staffed by a trained microbiologist. A major effort was made to provide soyfoods to institutions and to emphasize how good tofu is for special diets. Soon?? they were working with the New York City Board of Education's nutrition project and selling tofu to schools in that city, and in Connecticut, Maine, and Massachusetts (Springfield). The development and marketing of new products, however, had run into trouble. In mid-1980 the Soy Dairy, now with 40 employees, had decided to drop their Soymayo (because the small run production cost was too high) and by September they had also dropped their Numu soymilk (because the refrigerated shelf life of 18 days was too short). They had spent nearly 3 years and over $40,000 to develop the soymilk. The tempeh plans were dropped when Michael Cohen, one of the original partners, left in January 1978 to start his own tempeh plant, The Tempeh Works, also in Greenfield. Deep-fried tofu was dropped because of the high cost of the deep-frying equipment and the insurance. Ice cream and yogurt were dropped for lack of soymilk. Thus, in late 1980 the Soy Dairy found itself with only two products, regular and firm tofu, water packed with a new label. Roughly 75% of sales were to natural and health food stores and 25% to supermarket chains. Despite growth, the Soy Dairy was not making a profit. Losses in 1980 were 2% of sales, which was at least better than losses equal to 9% of sales in 1979.

The year 1981 was one of great changes. During the Chinese New year the Soy Dairy did its first big promotion, relating tofu to its Chinese origins. They mounted a local radio and TV campaign and issued press releases to regional newspapers; sales skyrocketed. In March the company hosted a meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, with a tour, dinner, and speeches. A nice article on tofu in Food Engineering ensued (Bannar 1980; How about 1981?). As a result of research showing that, despite all the Americanized recipes for tofu, most Americans still cooked it in an Oriental style, the Soy Dairy introduced a new program called "Naturally Gourmet" along with a new line of Oriental foods packaged under the Soy Dairy label: egg rolls, won-ton skins, ginger soy sauce, and five-spice powder. Bold, extensive promotion was done. In August, the company (under the aegis of Soy to the World Publishing Co.) published Delights of Tofu (Fox et al. 1981), a very attractive cookbook with a full-color cover and 56 taste-tempting recipes. Soy Dairy engineers had built a large, continuous process pasteurizer, and in September the company introduced a pasteurized tofu with a guaranteed 28-day shelf life. This too was extensively promoted, and sales climbed rapidly. In early 1982 the Soy Dairy did their biggest promotion yet in conjunction with the Chinese New Year. In one amazing week, sales hit 48,000 pounds, then fell back to a still excellent 36,000 pounds a week thereafter.

Over the years the Soy Dairy was able to maintain a compound growth rate in production of about 45% a year. Weekly tofu production for the first week of each year was 8,000 pounds in 1978, 18,500 pounds in 1979, 24,000 pounds in 1980, 30,000 pounds in 1981, and 36,000 pounds in 1982. Sales were $70,000 for 1977, $250,000 for 1978, $704,000 for 1979, $l,025,000 for 1980, and $ ?? for 1981. The Soy Dairy had established an impressive record in 5 short years, served as a model for other companies, and played a major role in launching tofu into the American consciousness.

Tofu Innovations in America . Most of the people who began working with tofu in America approached the new food totally free of preconceptions--with a "Beginner's Mind." With remarkable ingenuity, they quickly and creatively began to adapt it to traditional and favorite American uses, in ways that had never been dreamed of during tofu's previous thousand-year history. The first innovators were the cookbook writers, then came the people who ran soy delis, cafes or restaurants, then soyfoods manufacturer-distributors, and finally soyfoods marketer distributors. Details on the evolution of each of these concepts are given in Chapter 78.

The world's first soy deli was started by the Farm Food Company in August 1976 at San Rafael, California. They introduced tofu sandwiches, salads, salad dressings, and cheesecake, plus tempeh with creamy tofu topping. The Tofu Shop/Far Pavillions in Telluride, Colorado (opened Oct. 1977) featured Tofu Burgers, Stir-Fried Tofu with Rice and Vegetables, Grilled Tofu and Vegetables in Pita Bread, Tofu Guacamole in Burritos or Salads, and Tofu & Vegetable Salads. The Cow of China (White Wave) in Boulder, Colorado (March 1978) introduced Tofu Missing Egg Salad, Tofu Mayonnaise, Sweet Bean Pie (like a tofu cheesecake), Banana Coconut Tofu Treat, Peanut-Carob Tofu Treat, Carob-Mint Tofu Treat, Tofu Pizza, Tofu Spinach Dill Turnovers, Tofu Cinnamon Rolls, Hot Tofu Meatballs, Tofu Strawberry Pie, Tofu Peach Pie, Tofu Mayo Potato Salad, Marinated Tofu & Greens Salad, Tofuna (mock tuna fish) Sandwich, and Tofu Cream Cheese & Black Olive Sandwich: all tremendously imaginative and tasty! The Soy Plant Soy Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 1978) boasted such originals as Tofu Cream Tarts, Tofu Tahini Spread, Tofu Quiche, and Spiced Vegetable Tofu. One of the most beautiful of the new soy delis, The Tofu Shop (later Lotus Cafe) in Rochester, New York, which opened in November 1978, proudly presented Deviled Tofu Salads and Sandwiches, Tofulafels, Tofu Onion and Dill Dips, Tofu Spinach Pie, Tofu Italiano, Tofu Not-Dogs (like hot dogs), and Tofu Carob Mint Pie. Mintz's Buffet, a traditional kosher Jewish deli in New York City, developed a line of nondairy deli delicacies, including an amazing Tofu Ice Cream, which attracted a burst of media coverage including even a major story in The New York Times (Sass 1981). These pioneer soy delis and the many that followed them played a key role in demonstrating the great culinary potential of tofu to the American public, which had formerly thought of using it only in Oriental dishes. Additional tofu recipes developed by later delis are given in Chapter 78.

By 1977 tofu started being incorporated into the menus of a growing number of standard American restaurants and delicatessens in salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and soups. Kosher New York restaurants started to use tofu instead of cheese in their blintzes and Italian restaurants substituted it for ricotta cheese in their Lasagna. Tofu desserts were also a big favorite. In March 1977 the Gilman Street Gourmet in Berkeley, California, started serving America's first tofu burgers; a year later, with the burgers selling at the fantastic clip of 120 a day (their best-selling item), they added Tofu Miso Ginger and Tofu "Meat" Balls to the menu.

Surely the most famous early restauranteur to feature tofu was Trader Vic in San Francisco. In early 1980 the Trader published a table flyer and wall poster showing a lovely Oriental girl with the slogan "Let Us Put a Little Tofu in Your Life," below which were names of the tofu dishes available at the restaurant: Tofu Chicken Tidbits, Pistachio and Veal Tofu Pate, Tofu-Vegetable Salad with Dill Dressing, Quenelles of Mahi Mahi with Tofu, Tofu Pork Sausage, Tofu Tomato Beef, and Parmesan Tofu with Ham and Tomato Sauce. Note that many of these contained meat, poultry, or fish. In September 1980 the San Francisco Chronicle (Steiman 1980) did a big story headlined "TOFU: Trader Vic's Creativity Americanizes an Asian Staple," with many recipes and photos. Dosti (1981) followed with another major story in the Los Angeles Times . By 1982 Trader Vic had introduced tofu recipes to all the restaurants in his worldwide chain, including those in London, Munich, Vancouver, Toronto, and even Tokyo. To keep up with his customers' very positive acceptance, he was constantly developing new recipes to expand his repertoire.

The next innovative concept in marketing tofu was the secondary soyfoods manufacturer-distributor, first pioneered in April 1978 by Swan Foods in Miami, Florida. Using tofu they made, they developed a line of creative, ready-to-eat secondary products, which they distributed over a wide area. Their early products included Baked Tofu, Marinated Tofu (in a shoyu sauce), Caraway Tofu (with caraway seeds mixed in with curds), Tofu Cheesecakes, Roasted Cashew-Tofu Pie, Tofu Fruit Pies (apple-pear-cinnamon), Tofu Mocha Pie, Tofu Chip Dip, Tofu Carob Cream Cake, Tofu Rice Salad, and Tofu Vegetable Stew. These delicious and colorfully packaged products, promoted nationwide with full-page ads in several magazines, were very popular.

Another company to expand on this new idea was Quong Hop & Co. in South San Francisco, the oldest existing tofu company in America. An update on their pioneering work would show that they were the first tofu company owned and operated by Oriental Americans to establish a program to introduce tofu (and soymilk) to the Caucasian American consumer (from 1972), the first to promote tofu in supermarkets as an economical and nutritious alternative to meat and dairy products (using an enclosed pamphlet and point-of-purchase ads (Jan. 1973), one of the first producers to use natural nigari (Dec. 1975) and organically grown soybeans (Aug. 1976), the first to make and distribute tofu burgers (June 1977), the first producer of nigari tofu for vacuum packaging (April 1978; the vacuum packing, however, was pioneered in late 1977 by Redwood Natural Foods in Santa Rosa, California, using Quong Hop's tofu), and the first to introduce Tofu Cutlets and Savory Baked Tofu (April 1978). They also did pioneering work with secondary products, making the first aseptically packed creamy tofu dressings requiring no refrigeration (May 1980) and one of the earliest lines of frozen tofu entrees (Sept. 1980), plus soymilk and soymilk ice cream. The entrees, sold like their other natural-food products under the New Leaf brand, included Tofu Quiche, Tofu Eggplant Marinara, Tofu Cacciatore, and Tofu Cutlets Marinara. In 1981 they introduced a Tofu Ravioli, Tofu Wholly Cannoli (an Italian dessert), and a tofu burger on a whole wheat sesame bun. In early 1982 they introduced a new concept, inviting natural and health food stores to "Start Your Own Soy Deli for $50." Quong Hop would provide a sign to be placed on the cold storage case reading "From New Leaf: The Soy Deli" with a list of frozen tofu entrees and desserts. The store would then buy the deli "kit" of products from Quong Hop. Expansion into Sweet & Sour and Tofu Cheesecakes was planned?? In 1980 Quong Hop had 25 employees (up from 6 in 1972) and sales of well over $500,000 a year, increasing at 20% yearly (Cohen 1981). In 1981 the company did about $1 million sales, with a growth rate of 30-35% a year. And they produced 42,750 pounds of tofu a week, making them America's fourth largest. Despite their strong interest in the Americanization of tofu, Quong Hop was slow to take interest in the Soyfoods Association of America, which had the same goal.

White Wave in Boulder was another early manufacturer-distributor. By December 1977, operating out of a minuscule 300-square-foot shop (the front was a deli and the back was their tofu plant), they were making Herb Tofu, Mushroom Tofu, and Black Walnut Tofu. By early 1979 they had added Tofu Sandwiches, Tofu Cheesecake, Tofu Mayo, Missing Egg Salad, Baked Tofu Cutlets, and Tofu Turnovers. Nasoya (in spring 1980) was the first to manufacture a full line of tofu spreads and dressings: Eggless Egg Salad, Soyannaise, Zesty Italian Spread, Creamy Dill Spread, and Onion Spread. With these, they hoped to do for tofu what flavors did for yogurt. Farm Foods in San Francisco made and marketed a popular Tofu Salad. When??

The third innovative tofu marketing concept was the soyfoods marketer-distributor, pioneered in June 1978 by Tumaro's Natural Foods in Los Angeles, California. These companies bought their tofu from a tofu maker, then developed and marketed ready-to-eat tofu products. Other early and important tofu marketer-distributors included Garden of Eatin' in Los Angeles (from April 1979), Living Lightly in San Francisco (July 1980), Nature's Table in Greenfield, Massachusetts (Sept. 1980), and Legume in Verona, New Jersey (Jan. 1981). The names of their various tofu products are given in Chapter 78.

In addition, bakeries purchased fresh tofu and made it into Tofu Tarts and Tofu Cheesecakes. Sandwich companies bought tofu and used it mashed, blended, or sliced (with seasonings) in many types of sandwiches. At a later date, other companies developed Tofu Mayonnaise, Tofu Quiche, and Tofu Creme Pies (carob, lemon, and banana flavors). Still other companies developed seasonings to enhance tofu. Westbrae Natural Foods in California developed White Tiger Tofu Sauce, a tangy shoyu-based sauce to sprinkle over fresh tofu; Maya in Ann Arbor made a dry tofu burger mix to be blended with fresh tofu then shaped into tofu patties. When?? Larry Needleman in California was developing Tofu Helper, a dried seasoning mix to be mashed into tofu to make salad mixes, spreads, or dips. Flavors included Mock Egg Salad, Garlic & Dill, and Mixed Vegetable & Herb.

America is basically an ethnic melting pot and here tofu's true ethnic potential was discovered. Tofu Italiano included Tofu Cacciatore, Canaloni, Cannoli, Lasagna, Parmigiana, Pizza, Ravioli, Marinara, and wonderful Tofu Italian Dressings. For the Hispanic flair there was Tofu Burritos, Guacamole, Enchiladas, Tamales, and Tostadas. For Middle East enthusiasts there was Tofu Moussaka, Pita, Felafel, and Tofu-Tahini Sauces. French gourmets loved Tofu Quiche and Ratatouille, and Greeks liked Tofu Spanokopita. The top eight American-style favorites were Tofu Burgers, Cheesecakes, Dips, Dressings, Cream Pies, Salads, Sandwiches, and Vegetable Sautes. Skeptics were most easily won over by the tofu desserts. To celebrate this key observation, the Soyfoods Association, at its 1981 conference, held the world's first Tofu Cheesecake Bakeoff, which had many entrants and was a great success, receiving nationwide media coverage.

Tofu innovations also included packaging. As tofu was the only food in America sold immersed in water, some commented wryly that it reminded them of a laboratory specimen floating in formaldehyde. Water-packed tofu was thus a triple looser: unfamiliar, unattractive, and inconvenient (difficult to reseal during storage, and the package had only one surface for labeling). Three alternatives to water packed tofu were quickly developed: vacuum pack, Tetra Pak, and dry pack. The world's first vacuum packed tofu was developed and introduced in late 1977 by Redwood Natural Foods in Santa Rosa, California. The age-dated product looked very much like a white cheese, and had a longer shelf life and a much lighter weight and volume than water-packed tofu. Soon many companies were vacuum packing their tofu using low-cost vacuum packaging machines. Silken tofu packed in aseptic Tetra Pak cartons was developed by Morinaga in Japan in 1977 and introduced to the American market in 1978. For details see Silken Tofu (below) and Chapter 33, Soymilk. Dry-packed tofu, sold pasteurized in the tofu tubs usually filled with water, was developed and introduced in 1980 by Garden of Eatin' in Los Angeles. It was reported to have a shelf life of 3-5 weeks, and had a better flavor and weighed less to ship than water-packed tofu. Closely related to packaging was the very important innovation of pasteurizing cakes of finished tofu by immersing them in water at about 80*C for 50 minutes, then chilling them in cold water to increase the shelf life to 3-5 weeks. This process, developed in Japan in the mid-1970s, was introduced in the US by Hinode and then by Azumaya and New England Soy Dairy. Also all conscientious tofu makers put a "use-by" date on their tofu package.

Research was done to develop new types of tofu. In 1978 The Soy Plant in Ann Arbor added caraway seeds, curry, cayenne, etc. to their soymilk before curding to develop a line of seasoned or spiced tofus. During the 1970s among the Caucasian shops, nigari was the preferred coagulant; it had the mystique of the Oriental, the connotation of being natural, and the reputation of making the most delicious tofu, while calcium sulfate sounded like a chemical. This began to change, however, when it was realized that American-mined calcium sulfate was just as natural, purer, less expensive, easier to use, and higher yielding. In addition, it provided tofu with more than 3.5 times as much calcium. The West's first tofu curded with sea water was introduced by Ray Lipovsky of British Columbia in 1976. Yaghoubian (1978) developed a tofulike cheese from soymilk and cow's milk. Tofu was mixed with Cheddar cheese as an extender, which cut manufacturing costs by 23%. The finished product was great for spreads, but wouldn't melt. (See also Chapters ?? and ??.) By 1981 an estimated two-thirds of America's tofu was sold through supermarkets and one-third through natural and health food stores. Surveys by Natural Food Merchandiser and by the New England Soy Dairy in 1981 indicated that only 4% or 10% (respectively) of US natural and health food shoppers were buying tofu. According to the Soy Dairy, the main ways of serving it were pan frying it, crumbling it into salads, and stir frying it Oriental style. Thus new marketing approaches were clearly needed. In 1980 Gerd Ebling in Eugene, Oregon created a "What is Tofu?" contest. A flyer with many questions about all aspects of tofu was distributed to retail stores. The person who submitted the most correct answers won a prize. Tofu was introduced officially into prominent weight-loss diets such as Weight Watchers (1981). In January 1982 White Wave in Boulder, Colorado, was the first to persuade a major supermarket chain to place its tofu in the dairy case, next to yogurt. The industry was working to develop the concept of a "Soyfoods Case," which resembled the dairy case and was located next to it. Some even felt that tofu was developing an image of "gourmet chic" or "New-age chic."

Management and financing innovations included the establishment of cooperatively organized, worker owned and operated soyfoods businesses. Early examples of this approach were Surata Soyfoods in Eugene, Oregon (March 1977), The Soy Plant in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Sept. 1977), The Magic Bean in Milwaukee and the Bountiful Bean Plant in Madison (both in Wisconsin in late 1977). The Soy Plant was the first to successfully attempt a "Loan for Tofu" fund-raising program. A customer loaned the company $100 and was paid generous interest in the form of tofu rather than money.

New equipment and processes were also developed. In 1978 Crystal Springs tofu shop pioneered the development of a homemade low-cost hydraulic press for extracting soymilk from the slurry. Soon The Soy Plant and other companies improved the design. In 1981 Larry Needleman of Bean Machines, Inc. in California developed the first low-cost, all-stainless-steel sanitary disintegrator to replace stone mills, a fragile curd pump, and a continuous cooker--all to suit American needs. Woody Yeh at the University of Illinois developed a tofu from suspended soymilk (containing all the okara) to get a much higher yield, and eliminate whey and okara disposal; it had a nice texture. Dr. K.S. Kealey (ref??) of Cornell University successfully used dried acid dairy whey as a tofu coagulant, to give tofu with higher protein, iron, phosphorus, and calcium.

By the late 1970s, America had passed Japan as the world's center of tofu innovation. In the summer of 1978 the first contingent of tofu manufacturers from Japan--45 in all--toured America to study the new developments, which also received major coverage in the Japanese soyfoods press. Again in 1982 a large Japanese contingent attended the Soyfoods Conference in Seattle to learn from the highly innovative American tofu industry.

Tofu in Foodservice Institutions . Under the dual pressures of inflationary food prices and budget cutbacks in the late 1970s, combined with increased health consciousness and demand for special diets, foodservice institutions (such as school lunch programs, university dining halls, hospitals, day-care centers, senior citizen centers, prisons, etc.) became increasingly interested in soyfoods, especially tofu, because it was low in cost, had excellent nutritional value, and could be served as a protein source to vegetarians. By 1981 over 4.8 billion school lunch meals were being served yearly and more than 50 million pounds of soy protein (mostly TVP) were already being used in them. In 1979 Thelma Dalman, the charming and loquacious director of food services for the Santa Cruz city schools in California, pioneered the introduction of tofu into the school lunch program (Cite?? EWJ). In response to parents' demands for vegetarian meals to serve vegetarian kids, she introduced Tofu Patties or Burgers, Tofu Tamale Pies, and Tofu Zucchini Casseroles, then expanded its use to pizzas, tacos, dips, and vegetarian quiches. Acceptance among students was very high and savings ran from 35-60% per entree. Thelma became a crusader for tofu in school lunch programs. In September 1980 she and Richard Leviton, representing SANA, travelled to Washington, D.C. to lobby for tofu. The USDA set a precedent by granting temporary approval to Thelma to use tofu in her school system's 8,000 daily meals. In April 1981 the USDA proposed a regulation to allow tofu as a meat substitute in school lunches nationwide, but this was rescinded in October. In June 1981 Thelma's co-worker Mary Tolan was selected as "Registered Young Dietitian of the Year" by the American Dietetic Association for her topic "Tofu--Food of the Future." It is hoped that eventually lobbying by SANA will lead to acceptance of tofu as a recognized protein source in school lunches nationwide.

The New England Soy Dairy also did pioneering work in the institutional market, starting with schools in New York City. By March 1981 their tofu was being used as an extender in chicken salad, with plans to use it in Tofu Tuna Cakes, Tofu Lasagna, and other such dishes. By October 1981 some 17 New York elementary and high schools were serving tofu with brown rice and other nutritious foods as part of a pilot program approved by the USDA and the State Education Department. A meatless tofu spaghetti sauce was a favorite recipe. In Georgia, Sara Sloan was using tofu in her (nonreimbursable) ethnic school lunches as a salad dressing and dip, and in meatless lasagna. In April 1981 the respected California Cling Peach Advisory Board used tofu as the theme of their booth at the annual California Food Service Association meeting; they served Tofu Peach Whip and Peach Cobbler with Tofu Biscuits, and passed out ten full-color cards with recipes using tofu and peaches. These recipes were also distributed at subsequent seminars and conventions of nutritionists and dieticians working in the institutional market.

Growth of the US Tofu Industry . Starting in the late 1970s the US tofu industry began to mature. Traditional caldron shops expanded to pressure cooker plants. Many businesses recapitalized their operations. A new generation of owners with a business background entered the industry, often bringing professional marketing skills. Sanitation standards were greatly improved to extend shelf life and reduce risks of food contamination. The entire industry slowly became more professional.

One of the sad ironies of the early years of the American tofu industry was that virtually all the Oriental manufacturers, who actually benefited most from the rapid growth of interest in tofu in America, long remained critical of the new breed of Caucasian tofu makers. They were apparently concerned that a market which, though small, had been firmly in their grasp, would be invaded by a host of Occidental newcomers. They repeatedly expressed the fear that lack of knowledge of sanitation by the new shops would lead to an incident of food poisoning that would hurt the entire industry, yet ironically the first sanitation-related incident, a fine by health inspectors for repeated sanitation violations, was levied against a Japanese-run plant (Azumaya). Prior to 1983 only a few Oriental producers joined or in any way supported the Soyfoods Association or its annual meetings. Unfortunately for them, less than half of the Oriental producers took the opportunity to market their tofu to mainstream America. Yet a few (Hinode, Azumaya) did make tofu products to order for Caucasian companies that marketed them on their own, and by 1983 they began to play a leading role in the Soyfoods Association.

The rapid growth of tofu shops in America after 1976 is shown in Figure ??. Although the burgeoning new industry was still in its infancy, by June 1981, there were 220?? tofu companies in the Western world; 170 of these, mostly run by non-Orientals, have opened since April 1976 and publication of The Book of Tofu ; they now have about 40%?? of the industry sales, and the percentage is steadily increasing. The number of Oriental shops, numbering 85, had also grown, but much more slowly??; they had an estimated 60%?? of the market sales. In April 1978 the number of Caucasian-run plants in North America passed the number of Oriental run and the production for the industry since 1976 increased at the brisk rate of about 25% a year. In 1980 the total industry used an estimated 920 tons?? of dry soybeans a year to make roughly 2,760 tons of tofu. Tofu plants were in production in 36 of the 48 US states and in five of Canada's nine provinces. California had the largest number of plants with 31, followed by 16 in Hawaii, 12 in New York, and 5 in Massachusetts. There were 19 tofu plants in Canada.

A ranking of the 15 largest tofu manufacturers in North America in April 1982?? looked like this: Hinode Tofu Co. in Los Angeles (140,000 lbs of tofu a week), Azumaya in San Francisco (110,000), Aloha Tofu Co. in Honolulu (60,000), Quong Hop & Co. in San Francisco (43,000), New England Soy Dairy in Massachusetts (36,000), Kanai Tofu in Honolulu (21,000), Traditional Tofu in Oakland (17,000), Eastern Foods Corp. in Milwaukee (15,000), Panda Foods in New York (15,000), Nasoya in Massachusetts (12,000), Island Spring near Seattle (12,000), Swan Gardens in Miami (12,000), Victor Foods in Scarborough (ONT, Canada; 10,000), Hashizume in New York (10,000), and White Wave in Boulder (9,000). These 15 companies, making a total of 552,000 pounds of tofu a week or 14,352 tons a year, accounted for about 63% of the total US production.

In May 1981 FIND/SVP, a well-known New York research organization many of whose clients are large food processing companies, issued two reports on the US tofu industry. The first, "The Tofu market: Overview of a High-Potential Industry," predicted that US tofu sales, then at $50 million per year, would grow 300% by 1986 to $200 million (32% a year compounded). The report noted many parallels to the growth of the yogurt market: yogurt sales were $50 million in 1963 and yogurt was once a foreign food used by health enthusiasts; the addition of sweetened fruit flavorings to yogurt in 1968 led to skyrocketing sales. The report predicted that tofu might well be the yogurt of the 1980s: "The potential market for tofu, positioned as a tasty, versatile food, is at least as great as the current market for yogurt." But it would probably take 5-10 years to reach the level of $317 million sales and 500 million pounds a year. The report concluded that the market opportunity in this industry "poised for takeoff" would be recognized and that a major move would be made in the industry in the next 1-2 years. The second report, "Tofu Consumer Awareness and Purchasing Patterns: A Nationwide Survey," presented the first such information on this key subject. A nationwide consumer survey of a sample of 819 people in major metropolitan areas showed that 33% of these respondents had heard of tofu (52% on the West coast), 18% had tasted tofu (more than half of those who had heard of it had tasted it), and 10% had purchased tofu (almost half of these lived on the West coast). Typical consumers were health minded and well educated, buying tofu for its nutritional value and low price.

Future of the US Tofu Industry . From 1976-1982 the number of tofu plants in the US increased at the rate of about 19 a year. We expect this rate to continue??. Since tofu is a perishable food and freshness is the key to flavor, and since it is heavy and transportation costs are rising rapidly, we foresee a relatively decentralized industry, with quality local or regional production like the baking or dairy industries. In areas with a high density of tofu users (such as major cities or university towns) small tofu shops, similar to the traditional shops in Japan, featuring fresh hand-crafted tofu sold direct to customers, will become increasingly viable, as will local bicycle delivery. There is good reason to believe that one of America's larger food processing companies (such as General Foods, Kraft, Beatrice, CPC, etc.) will start to make tofu. They will probably start their own plant rather than buying an existing company (Why??). There is also a chance that a large Asian tofu or soymilk manufacturer (such as Morinaga, Kibun, Yeo Hiap Seng, or Hong Kong Soya Bean Products Co.) will build a plant in America. Most larger manufacturers will almost certainly make a line of ready-to-eat secondary products such as tofu dips, dressings, mayonnaise, burgers, cutlets, salads, cottage cheese, and the like. We predict that by 1984 cakes of firm tofu, vacuum packed like a typical cheese, will be available at many larger supermarket chains, sold in the dairy case next to the cheeses, but at less than half the price of cheese, and advertised as being low in fats and calories, free of cholesterol, healthful, and versatile. There will be increases in the use of pasteurization and Tetra Pak (these will hurt small shops), vacuum packing, lactone silken tofu, tofu-dairy blends (as with cheese), and tofu made with suspended (whole bean) soymilk. Increasingly tofu will appear on the menus of restaurants, fast food chains, and delis. Indeed, tofu will play an increasingly important role throughout the American food system.


Latin America . The earliest known mention of tofu in Latin America was by Stahel in 1946. He noted that in Surinam, a country with many Indonesian and Dutch settlers, tofu was made on a very limited scale by a Chinese in Parimaribo. Regular tofu was called taohoo and firm tofu taokoan (like doufu gan). The latter had a yellowish color (presumably from simmering in turmeric) and could be shipped abroad. By the 1960s or earlier there were probably Japanese tofu plants in Brazil. The largest in 1982 was Agro Nippo Productos in Sao Paulo.

Interest in tofu increased in the late 1970s. Americans started tofu shops in Ecuador and Guatemala. One was started in Guyana, and three were started by Mexicans in Mexico. Blanca Dominguez did extensive tofu education work in Mexico and in 1978 wrote a book with tofu recipes and instructions for making tofu at home. In some areas tofu has the advantage of being quite similar to the well known unfermented cheese queso blanco . See also Chapters 19 and ??.

Africa . Since 1980 some work has been done in Egypt on making tofu-like products from soymilk and dairy milks, coagulated with enzymes. Source?? We know of no other mention of tofu in Africa and no commercial tofu plants.


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