Hodo Foods Founder and CEO Minh Tsai said that the company's newest launch — the tofu-based Vegan All-Day Egg Scramble — was ahead of its time.
The California-based company, which got its start in a farmer's market stand 15 years ago, has been serving up a tofu version of scrambled eggs there for years, Tsai said. The new Egg Scramble is a CPG version of that dish, and launched nationwide at 1,500 stores this month.
While the plant-based sector has been expanding rapidly in recent years, with many new brands and products hitting shelves, there are not that many companies making plant-based eggs. Eat Just's mung bean-based Just Egg has been the only major player in the space for years. But out of all categories of the plant-based sector, egg analogs have grown the most of all, according to statistics from SPINS, the Plant-Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute. In 2021, plant-based egg sales were up 42% — though household penetration was just 1.4%.
Tsai said that Hodo has focused on creating delicious organic and premium tofu-based products, with options that are on-trend and convenient.
"We are savvy enough to know that this alternative egg space has a lot of running room," Tsai said. "But when we first came out with the idea and the concept, it wasn't because it has a lot of running room. It was because, 'Oh wow. We can make a delicious scrambled egg.' "
Hodo's All-Day Scramble comes packaged in a mostly ready to eat, scrambled egg format that the user heats up in a frying pan or microwave. As the concept of eating breakfast all day is more popular with consumers, Hodo is targeting that segment. All-Day Scramble is designed to go from the refrigerator to a burrito or an egg sandwich, or be eaten like a traditional scrambled egg. Tsai said he thinks this versatility could quickly make the All-Day Scramble one of the company's best selling items. It's already the most widespread product launch Hodo has done in its history.
Considering the natural texture and structure of tofu, Tsai said it was relatively easy to transform it into something that had a similar texture to scrambled eggs. Flavorings and colorings, including salt and turmeric, are used to complete the metamorphosis into an egg analog. Getting the right color and taste, Tsai said, was actually the hardest part.
"The secret sauce here is essentially how do you make something that has a flavor of eggs, right?" he said. "And egg, generally speaking, it's really about sulfur and richness in the mouth. I think we achieved that."
From a nutritional standpoint, All-Day Scramble also can stand up to plant-based and chicken-made eggs. It has as much protein as a chicken egg, no cholesterol, more protein than other egg alternatives, and is high in fiber, calcium and iron, according to Hodo.
While Hodo can't set market prices, Tsai said the All-Day Scramble will be priced competitively with other premium eggs and plant-based egg products. But Tsai said the company isn't necessarily in competition with Just Egg or even the traditional egg market. Hodo exists to make premium tofu products, and it is constantly reaquainting consumers with what tofu is and what it can do, he said. From that standpoint, Tsai said, competition is irrelevant.
Hodo got its start as a tofu company, but it's best known for taking the soybean curd and modifying its flavoring and texture to make it into an analog for other animal-derived products. The company has turned tofu into Adobo Mexican Crumbles — which could be substituted for taco meat — chicken-like nuggets in Thai Curry and Chinese Five Spice flavors, and Tofu Cajun and Veggie Burgers.
Tsai said this is another example of that approach.
"We started out with tofu, and we continue to make one of the most prized tofus. Our extra-firm tofu is selling like hotcakes," Tsai said. "But at the same time, the customers really want convenience. They chop it up, they ground it up, they flavor it. So they're telling us, 'Hey, I want it right off the bat with the flavor because I trust you.' ...That's essentially the DNA of how we innovate."