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  • Unconventional Ag

Food Companies Strive to Make 2015 the Year of Tempeh

Although often next to each other in supermarkets, tempeh has not yet been able to achieve what it took years for tofu to gain – recognition. Most consumers know what tofu is yet have never heard of tempeh before. Less than 1% of U.S. households purchase tempeh, according to Brad Lahrman, director of marketing for tempeh manufacturer, Lightlife, and these consumers are concentrated on the East Coast and in the Pacific Northwest.

Given how many of tempeh’s characteristics meet the growing trends that consumers are demanding, Brad Lahrman and others in the industry are hopeful that 2015 could become, as a Washington Post food editor declared in January, “the year of tempeh”.

With 16 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving, tempeh is one of the highest-protein soy-based meat alternatives on the market. It offers high levels of convenience and flexibility – with the ability to be sliced and fried, marinated, grilled, baked or and eaten straight from the package. Its ingredient list, which consists of two items – soybeans and water, is understandable, transparent, and pure, and since it is a fermented product, it can offer consumers the benefits of highly popular probiotics.

Despite these benefits, considering how long it took tofu to gain mainstream acceptance in the U.S. market, tempeh may face a long battle.

Throughout 2015, Lightlife is investing heavily in marketing and sampling programs, with the goal of growing tempeh’s consumption rate to that similar to veggie burgers - 30% of consumers. Tofurky, made by Turtle Island Foods, is also investing in tempeh research and development, adding different seeds and beans to the tofu such as chia seeds, garbanzo beans, and black beans to attract sophisticated consumers who are looking for added product dimension and value. The brand is also re-inventing its packaging, and is campaigning to remerchandise tempeh so it is more closely aligned with other meat alternatives in supermarkets.

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