All Whole Foods Market locations across the United States will soon stock tofu from the California-based organic brand, Hodo. Bloomberg reports other major retail distribution partnerships may soon be in the company’s future.
Founded in 2004 by Vietnam-born entrepreneur Minh Tsai, Hodo’s signature tofu already has a respectable presence in the food world. Its tofu wrapped in chartreuse packaging, along with its other organic soy products, are available in health food stores across the nation, Fairway, Key Foods, and other smaller, regional chains. Tsai has also partnered with several fast-casual and health-focused chains including Veggie Grill, Chipotle, and Sweetgreen, as well as New York City’s Superiority Burger.
Its entirely vegan product range includes plain tofu, braised tofu, heat-and-serve cubes seasoned with global spices, plant-based burgers, and yuba, a thin, chewy “sheet” of soy curd that’s a byproduct of the tofu-making process. At Hodo’s current facility, it uses an average of 30,000 pounds of organic, non-GMO American soybeans in order to produce 40,000 pounds of product. A major expansion is in the works which will allow the factory to raise production to about 70,000 pounds of product per day. Tsai hopes to eventually dabble with soy-free products as well, stating: “We will explore all possibilities with the plant-based set, from ready-to-eat to drinks to snacks.”
finding success with one of the world’s oldest forms of plant-based protein
According to a Nielsen report commissioned by Whole Foods last June, Hodo is among the fastest-growing companies in the plant-based protein category, with a revenue of $15 million and a year-over-year sales growth of 35.9 percent.
What sets Hodo apart from other brands – and what likely helped make it so successful – was Tsai’s interest in recreating the tofu he ate while growing up in Vietnam. While Asian tofu brands are easily obtained in the majority of the U.S., Tsai noticed that most were not organic. In 2002, he began selling his homemade tofu at a farmers market on Palo Alto, appealing to customers who “care about organic, local products.”
Two years later, he quit his day job in finance in order to pursue making tofu fulltime after successfully raising around $80,000. In 2005, he brought on John Notz as a business partner and chief financial officer. Together, the two worked to open Hodo’s first facility in 2008.
standing out in a growing market
In an age when one is likely to find several brands of tofu, including private label brands, at the average grocery store, Hodo’s success is likely due to entering the organic market ahead of the trend. According to recent data, the natural and organic foods market is a $70 billion industry that grew at a steady CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 7 percent from 2012 to 2016. By 2021, experts predict that growth will reach double digits.
Apart from gravitating toward non-GMO and organic foods, today’s consumer is increasingly interested in plant-based proteins. Global vegan food sales reached $3.3 billion last year and the market is expected to continue to grow as more individuals seek to reduce meat consumption for reasons related to health, environmentalism, and animal welfare.
Hodo products are expected to be available in more than 450 Whole Foods locations by the end of August. Tsai is also in talks with other major retailers, including Costco and Target.
Image Credit: Hodo Foods