Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr. (Hank is former resident of Gloucester City who lives in Japan)
Edgewater, N.J.-A Kyoto based tofu maker is poised to make inroads into the U.S. market on the back of strong popularity of its products in Japan and health-conscious American consumers. A brand of tofu named Otokmae
(Handsome Guy) that created a sensation among young Japanese when it appeared in July 2004.It made its full fledged U.S. debut last Friday at a Japanese supermarket near New York.
Shingo Ito, president of Otokomae Tofu ten Corp., based in Namtan, Kyoto Prefecture, plans to sell his unique brand of tofu that boasts a big kanji character for"otoko"(male) on the package at Japanese specialty stores first before hitting regular supermarkets.
It is still uncertain whether the tofu, made with Japanese-grown soybeans and more than twice as expensive as regular tofu in the United States, will win over American consumers.
"I created my tofu with meticulous attention to ingredients and techniques,"Ito said."I am confident that health-conscious Americans will love them."
Ito's tofu, which is flown from Japan to be on the shelf the day after it is made, sells for $1.99 to $ 6.99, compared 110 yen to 320 yen for the same products in Japan. A regular block costs about $1 to $2 in the U.S.
Through Sunday, Ito will lead in-store demonstrations himself, aiming to sell 2,000 packages of tofu in three days. He sold several dozen Friday morning alone.
Fans gave high marks, saying "it is much richer with a stronger soybean flavor than regular tofu. One of the products, Johnny, is sold in a shallow, surfboard-shaped package, distinguishing it from the usual square containers. The design is to allow consumers to eat the tofu, as soft as yogurt, directly from the container using a spoon.
"I used several times more soybeans than regular tofu to create the rich flavor. I am sure Americans can taste the difference once they try my tofu,"Ito said.
In fact I had Mr.Ito's Johnny tofu last night, yes it was delicious. We here at the Miller household eat tofu at least four times per week with our meals."I am sure Otokomae (Handsome Guy) Johnny will firmly establish a sizeable consumer base in the U.S. especially around Gloucester City once it catches on"
Warm Regards from Kitakyushu City, Japan