Interview with Minh Tsai
CEO at Hodo Foods

Hodo Foods is a plant-based food company with distinct line of organic tofu and yuba products, selling products nationally in retail stores as well as restaurants, such as Chipotle and Sweetgreen. Hodo is the only custom tofu/yuba shop in the US.
Hey Minh, could you tell us more about the service offerings of Hodo Foods?
Hodo food is a plan based food company started in San Francisco Bay area. We produce a line of retail and food service product that is made with soybeans. We started out basically as a tofu and yuba company. Back in 2004 we've been around for about 15 years. And we make 100 percent organic U.S. grown based foods at this time. As a company, we're one of the first in the plant-based food space using a very traditional ingredient which is soy. The reason I started that is because I grew up eating delicious tofu in Asia, and I couldn't find that quality of product here in the United States and tinkering around with it, I realized that I could make a tasty product, a delicious product and re-educate people, sort of reinvent this category of tofu. So we spent a lot of time educating the public about the ingredients, we work with chefs and we innovate to come up with products that are delicious, simple, few ingredients and pure. And over the last 15 years, we've seen steady growth, sustainable growth to the company that we are today. Today we are in about 3000 retail locations, we service a few large chains, including Chipotle, and we work with Michelin star restaurants. Thanks.
What makes Hodo Foods unique from other companies in the plant based food industry?
What made Hodo unique, relative to this category that we call plant-based foods, is the fact that we've been around for a long time, the company itself for 15 years prior to the definition of plant-based food, but also the fact that we work with our very traditional ingredients, soybeans. Tofu has been around from several thousand years, so, we're not really reinventing the wheel because our products are tofu based, what we are reinventing is the perception of tofu and how we are successful at doing that is creating very delicious and innovative recipes. We're very fortunate to be one of the original plan based food companies. The recent interest in plan base has really provided an additional larger platform for us to educate people about our products. We believe that as one of the original plant base foods people are interested in our products for their taste, health benefits, the convenience as well as the purity of our ingredients. So these are unique elements that make our company stand out relative to some of the folks that are entering the plant base space.
What was it like transitioning from being the CEO of HODO SOY Beanery to your work at Hodo Foods? How is your life different now?
We recently changed our name from Hodo Soy to Hodo Foods. The reason we did that is because we're looking at the potential of expanding beyond soy-based foods. There are so many opportunities out there in the plant base broader category that we believe that what interested in our brand and trust in our brand that we can introduce new products and new product lines of trusted delicious products to our customers. Life hasn't changed too much for me, I think the part that requires me to do more it's on the branding side, is to articulate how changing from Hodo Soy, to Hodo Foods will allow us more flexibility on the innovation side, but It doesn't really change the ethos of the company to continue to produce delicious and healthy plant-based food for consumers.
What key ingredients do you use in your organic tofu and yuba products at Hodo Foods?
In our production, we use 100 percent organic non-GMO soybeans grown in the United States. That is the main ingredients in everything we make here. It's important for us to source really good soybeans and to do that we contract with growers in the Midwest of the United States. We give them some specification of the varieties and protein and the fat content of the soybeans that we would like to use, but more importantly, we work very collaboratively with the growers to encourage them to go back into their heirloom library to come up with varieties that they don't think. We produce high yield for them. We are willing to work with them to test, to grow experimental batches of organic heirloom soybeans. We think it's it's our own way of encouraging more diversity in this particular legume soybeans and we think that diversity it's important simply because over the last 30 years the varieties of soybeans have reduced because most farmers are more reliant on the best or the highest yield soybeans. We certainly want to promote diversity in case something happens to the small population of soybeans varieties being used today. So I hope that in doing so, we'll see more varieties that we get to use in the future.
What do you think needs to happen for more people to adopt plant-based foods like your's in their daily diet?
I think the prevalence of plant-based food in the United States has increased the adoption of consumers eating plant-based food. I think one of the most recent interests in plant-based food has more to do with not so much the environmental impact, even though that's really important, but has to do with taste, you know whether you're looking at Beyond Meat, Impossible burgers or you know, vegan cheeses for example, taste is paramount and producers are coming up with really delicious products. That is the beginning of adoption, basically the golden rule of adoption at the retail side is first you make it delicious, secondly you make it economical so the price point has to be the equivalent of whatever substitute that you're replacing in the meat category site, and then thirdly you know after you can make it delicious after you can make it economical, is you really need to educate people on the health benefits the environmental benefits of your products. So these are the three or four things that are critical for adoption and I believe that in the U.S. the adoption of plant-based category really has to do with taste, economy, and ultimately health.
What's next for your work with Hodo Foods? Any big projects coming up?
Hodo is really at an exciting phase of our business. The interest in the plan based base is so huge now and what we've seen is people are interested in delicious plant-based food peer few ingredient plant-based foods and obviously the health benefits of soy-based food. it's really been popular of late. So I think in the West in the United States people are recognizing the health benefits of soy-based foods as the Asians have done for thousands of years in Asia. So we're benefiting from all the research and the recognition of the benefits. And we already have a delicious product out there. So for us, this is a fantastic platform, and a fantastic time for our brand to continue to do what we've done over the last decade and a half, which is to innovate, to produce products that are delicious and because our consumers are waiting for it. So it's a brand, we're really poised to not only doing innovation at the retail site but also to work with many large food service and large restaurant chains to do custom tofu bays or soy-based products for them, because their interest is bleeding not just on beyond retail into the restaurants, into the cafeterias of kids, and we're seeing younger and younger people asking for more plant-based food and more delicious plant-based foods, and that's what Hodo is poised to do. So I'm really looking forward to that next phase for Hodo, stay tuned there's more to come.