When it comes to meeting consumer demand for convenient, versatile, flavorful plant-based proteins–PBFA Member Hodo Foods stands out as a leader in the space. Over the past 20 years, this company has grown from a single farmer’s market stall into a force of a company, creating consumer packaged foods that are distributed nationwide in retail stores and featured in foodservice restaurants like Chipotle, Sweet Green, and more.
As we know from our recent U.S. retail sales data report, sales for the tofu, tempeh, and seitan category hit $185 million in 2022. After sales growth increased a monumental 41.5% in 2020, the category has been able to hold steady multi-year growth levels, demonstrating consumer interest in clean label plant-based proteins.
Along their journey of expansion, Hodo has remained committed to their sustainability ethos, sourcing their soy from regional, organic farms. As Minh Tsai, CEO and Founder of Hodo Foods, shared in a recent interview with PBFA, “making delicious, wholesome foods with the best and cleanest organic ingredients continues to be our singular focus today.” From this guiding principle, Hodo has expanded their product offerings to include plant-based eggs, burgers, nuggets, yuba noodles, soy milk, and crumbles, in addition to their classic and flavored tofu.
Consumer Informed Strategy
Hodo Foods is committed to meeting consumer needs for convenient plant-based foods that feature bold, global flavors – trends that stood out as the most important to plant-based consumers according to PBFA’s recent Unmet Needs: Insights and Solutions report. “We listen to consumers, influencers, chefs, and look globally to learn about flavors and texture trends. Convenient and quick, yet wholesome meals are very important,” shared Minh.
The company’s methodologies have become more sophisticated over time, with systematic research led by their marketing department. They conduct secondary research by working with published data from market research companies and syndicated retail performance data, as well as primary research, talking directly to consumers to understand their approach to menu planning, cooking, and grocery shopping.
“We really try to understand who we are making this product for,” said Minh. “How do they approach menu planning, what do they cook every day, what are the problems they face in the kitchen, what are they looking for in the grocery store. This information guides our R&D strategy.” This approach to actively seeking feedback also applies to their work with chefs and restaurant partners as well as buyers.
As Minh shares, they collaborate with “[industry partners] who are passionate about product development, and who have great perspectives from being in the field. We are lucky to have strong partners who care about good food and who really get behind Hodo as a brand.”
Velocity data at the consumer level is one of the sources Hodo Foods uses to see how impactful their products are in the marketplace. According to Minh, convenient and quick, yet wholesome meals are especially important right now, as consumers are concerned about food prices and making the most of what they already have on hand when meal planning. In this way, Hodo Foods is able to stay nimble and adapt according to what resonates most with their core consumers. Their goal is to reach all consumers and engage with their desire to eat healthy, wholesome foods without sacrificing on taste or having to spend tons of time learning to prep or cook plant-based options.
Great Food as Motivator for Change
Hodo Foods’ commitment to sustainability is ingrained in their company culture. “We recognize that with each new consumer that eats our food, we are supporting and scaling organic agriculture and sustainable land use, improving consumer health, protecting our environment and creating positive impacts to address climate change,” says Minh. It also helps that their team members all share these values and are passionate about making and offering food with integrity.
One of the fundamental principles that Hodo Foods adheres to is making each product delicious. “It has to taste good! If you’re saving the world while you’re eating it, even better!” says Minh. Their target consumers are extremely discerning, paying close attention to taste, versatility, ingredient quality, and nutrient density, and they want to buy from companies that source responsibly and process cleanly.
“In terms of business strategy, we never launch anything unless we think it tastes really great,” Minh emphasizes. “It doesn’t matter if it’s totally on trend, or that the marketing opportunities are great for it, or that retail channels are eager to pick it up. Business strategy is led first and foremost by great taste.”
Hodo Foods intersects with multiple long-trending shifts for what consumers want on their tables, according to Minh. Clean and healthy ingredients draw in new consumers, while deliciousness keeps them. Public awareness has grown about nutrient density and making the most of food choices in multifaceted ways, with a focus on protein and fiber.
We are looking forward to witnessing the continued growth and innovation coming from Hodo Foods. To learn more about their company and where to find their products, check out their website and follow on social @HodoFoods