‘For price-sensitive, health-conscious consumers, this (buying tofu) is a viable option for adding more protein to their diets’
The pandemic has had serious repercussions on the meat supply chain.
After high infection rates in slaughterhouses forced the closure of more than 20 plants around the country in early April, the lockdown dried up meat demand as eateries shut down including school canteens, restaurants, and fast-food chains.
These events led producers to cull livestock, tipping the ailing industry even further.
According to reports, pandemic related events and resulting price spikes due to decreased supply have tilted customer preferences towards plant -based protein, and tofu – made from soybeans has been soaring in popularity in the US.
Based on The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) data all plant-based sales in the US during the third week of March were 90% more when compared with the previous year, while sales in April were 27% higher.
Sales of both fresh and frozen meat alternatives “have seen tremendous gains throughout since early March when coronavirus upended many grocery shopping patterns,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics, in an analysis of the market, reported Agri-Pulse.
“Dollar and volume sales gains versus the same week in 2019 have been in the double-digits for 13 weeks running.”
Similar to other meat alternatives, tofu sales were significantly higher this year when compared to the last.
In 2019, U.S. tofu sales were $363 million, and penetration in retail stores was 5 percent, which shot up by 66.7% in March 2020 and still remained up by 32.8% in May 2020, showed a Nielsen report.
Kroger with nearly 2,800 supermarket stores across the country, said tofu sales jumped nearly 9 per cent between mid-March and the end of May.
Supermarket chain Wegmans also reported a spike in sales of tofu when compared with the same period in 2019.
South Korean food maker Pulmuone, which accounts for 78 percent of US tofu sales said demand of tofu in the U.S. was so high that despite three of its US plants producing six days a week, it had to import from South Korea to meet growing demand.
Tofu- a healthier, cheaper option
According to Dr. Michael Greger, who leads the nonprofit nutritionfacts.org, tofu is a niche product and is a more nutritional alternative than other alt-meat options available in the market.
“Tofu has 40% fewer calories than popular plant-based burgers,” he said.
“Consumption of tofu and other soy foods is associated with lower rates of cancer—including the risk of dying from breast cancer—and cardiovascular disease without affecting thyroid hormone levels.”
Tofu is versatile and can be used in the preparation of a variety of foods such as burgers, hot dogs, sauces, ice creams, shakes, and desserts among others.
In addition, tofu is cheaper compared to other meat substitutes. While Beyond Meat retails a pound of vegan beef for $8.99, customers can buy the same amount of tofu for just $2.99
“For price-sensitive, health-conscious consumers, this (buying tofu) is a viable option for adding more protein to their diets,” said Dasha Shor, a global food analyst at Mintel, a market research consultancy.
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