Since the pandemic began in March, tofu has been flying off the shelves! According to Nielsen, tofu sales in the first half of 2020 were a whopping 40 percent higher than last year. Google searches for tofu recipes have also nearly doubled since March.
As restaurants and other businesses began to shut down to fight the spread of the coronavirus, tofu manufacturers struggled to keep up with the high demand for their nutritious, versatile product. Tofu shortages have even been reported in major cities, including Seattle and Washington, DC.
The demand was so high that the owner of the nation’s number one tofu brand—Pulmuone Brands—had to ship one million more packs of tofu than expected from South Korea over the summer. Jay Toscano, executive vice president of sales for Pulmuone, said:
In the past, if we’d had 2 percent growth in sales from one year to the next, we’d be high-fiving each other. This year we’re seeing 20 percent growth, and we could easily have grown 50 percent if we could keep up with production.
There are likely a few reasons for this surge in demand. Mercy For Animals recently completed a survey, asking 500 people in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, India, and China about their behaviors relating to farmed animal issues in light of COVID-19. We found that people in all five countries had reduced their consumption of animal products because of the pandemic—most prompted by concerns for safety and health.
As well as being healthy, tofu is relatively inexpensive. As the economy suffers, tofu makers attribute the rise of interest in their product to consumers seeking out healthy, affordable proteins. Esmee Williams, vice president of predictive trends for Allrecipes, said:
A third of our audience says their incomes have been impacted by the pandemic, so it makes sense that there’s been interest in tofu.