Putting sexy into soybean curd
If anyone can get Americans to eat tofu, it’s John Scharffenberger. In the 1980s, the serial foodie made American-produced sparkling wines hot and then in the 1990s, he got people buying gourmet chocolate rectangles (under the brand Scharffen Berger, acquired by Hershey in 2005) when everyone knew Americans only ate cheap candy bars. Now Scharffenberger, 59, has embarked on perhaps his most uphill battle of all — making tofu a luxury gourmet item. He has become CEO of Hodo Soy Beanery, a company that turns dried soybeans into the exquisite custard the Japanese prize.
Now Scharffenberger, 59, has embarked on perhaps his most uphill battle of all — making tofu a luxury gourmet item. He has become CEO of Hodo Soy Beanery, a company that turns dried soybeans into the exquisite custard the Japanese prize but many Americans avoid like the plague.
“He’s gone from two of the sexiest foods, Champagne and chocolate, and he obviously thinks this can be sexy,” says Olivia Wu, a food writer and chef at Google who has Hodo products in her cafe.
It might be an uphill battle. Tofu has the same problem today that yogurt had 30 years ago, says Brian Wansink, author of the book Marketing Nutrition. It may be healthful and beloved by millions in other parts of the world, but “we don’t know how to prepare it, we don’t know what to put with it,” says the Cornell professor and expert on eating behaviour. “No one says, ‘Aha — it’s tofu time!’ “
Yoghurt found its place in the American diet when it went from a gloppy, unfamiliar health food to an easy-to-eat snack.
Once tofu undergoes that transformation, gets sleek packaging and comes not in a raw “what the heck do I do with this?” block but an easy-to-use prepared food, it will find its place, he believes….
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