When the pandemic hit, grocery stores were having trouble keeping up. First it was Clorox wipes and toilet paper. Then it was flour and … tofu?
“In a matter of two weeks, we sold more tofu than we did in an entire year,” says Carmella Lanni, co-owner of South Philly’s vegan grocery store V Marks the Shop. “People couldn’t get it in other places, and so when word got out we had it, people were trying to buy a full case — that’s 12 tofu blocks — at a time.” In March, the store started setting limits: two tofu packages per order. Things began calming down by May, but demand remains consistently higher than pre-pandemic.
According to data from Nielsen, the tofu market in Philly has grown 34% ($4 million) compared to the same period last year. One of the biggest companies seeing gains is Pulmuone Brands, owner of the nation’s top-selling tofu brand Nasoya, which reported a 47.9% growth nationwide in July and a 41.9% growth in August compared to the previous year.
Why is tofu having this moment?
Tofu’s affordable. It’s low in fat and high in protein. And it’s far removed from the coronavirus outbreaks tainting slaughterhouses, which has many reconsidering their relationship with meat for reasons beyond the virus.
And yet, while a centuries-old staple, tofu’s popularity in the states, until recently, has been slow to rise. With multiple styles and a mild taste, many people say they just don’t know what to do with it.
So we’ve created a guide. From soft to silken to extra firm, here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular types of tofu and how to use each.
Most tofu is made out of soybean milk that’s boiled, curdled, and then pressed.
“It’s basically like making cheese,” says Mark Amey, owner of Fresh Tofu Inc.