It's a plant-based go-to but many consumers have been historically wary of tofu, unsure of how to prep and cook it for instance. But the oh-so-versatile soy based product has a new lease on life, with a global surge in consumer interest this year.
In the UK, sales of tofu were up 87.1% in the 12 weeks to June 2020 (Kantar Worldpanel). Meanwhile, over Stateside, Nielsen data suggests tofu sales were up 40% in the first half of the year (compared to last year), whilst recipe database Allrecipes.com reported a 266% surge in searches for tofu recipes. Pulmuone Brands, who own leading tofu brand Nasoya, reportedly had to ship an extra 1 million packs of product from South Korea to the USA to meet the sudden spike in demand.
So what exactly is behind the surge in consumer appetite for tofu? Will it last? And what sorts of products and recipes are proving the most popular?
Time To Discuss
There are lots of factors driving the popularity of tofu this year. One key driver is the spike in demand for shelf stable packaged foods during lockdown, as consumers look to stock up their pantries for days ahead. Then there are the budget and health factors... Consumers have felt their pursestrings tighten this year, but they still want nutritious food options for their family. Tofu provides a solution as it's protein packed, but usually clocks in cheaper than its meat counterparts.
Of course, the surge in interest in tofu goes hand-in-hand also with the general boom in plant-based eating. More consumers are adopting vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diets, and many of these are choosing to explore/re-discover traditional plant-based sources of protein like tofu; not least because they understand what it is, and where it comes from.
Tofu may be a beloved feature of many Asian cuisines, but it is also a versatile ingredient that can take on any number of rubs, marinades, sauces and so on. Dishes from all around the world are getting the plant-based treatment with tofu used where meat, fish or cheese might typically appear. And when it comes to flavours, the bolder the better, to counteract tofu's mellow taste and creamy texture. Think jerk spice, fermented chilli space, harissa rub, you name it.