Otsuka People Talk
General Manager, Nutrition & Nature,
Soy Product Creator in Europe
It has been great to see people discover tofu, how good it is for you and how good it can taste.
After becoming an attorney specializing in business law, he became interested in organic and natural food products. He first encountered tofu dishes in the United States in the 1970s, and traveled to different places to learn more, before launching the first tofu and soy business in France for the European market.
In collaboration with NHK Enterprises, Inc.
From a business lawyer to a tofu specialist
It all began in the 70s. I became vegetarian at that time, and through reading books and articles I learned about tofu, and decided to try and make some at home; it was not available in the shops back then.
Because I'd specialized in business law I had no technical background in this field. After working in France for a few years I decided to go to the United States for an extended period to learn how to make tofu and miso.
Reasons for creating soy products
It's not easy to introduce tofu in Europe or in France, because we have no reference points. When French people see a piece of tofu, it looks like cheese, but it's not cheese. Also, we don't have this notion of a "neutral taste" as you do in Japan with tofu, making it not so attractive to the local market. Because of this, we need to introduce tofu and soy foods as ingredients in different recipes, and this is why we mix tofu with vegetables, herbs and spices, to give tofu some taste and make it more attractive for people to eat.
Once customers discover tofu, then they can create new recipes and combinations with other foods, but getting over that first hurdle is all about effective communication and providing information, and that takes time. It has been really interesting to see the changes in the last few years as people have discovered what tofu is, how good it is for you and how good it can taste.