“But where do you get your protein?” The question arguably every single vegetarian and vegan has to answer regularly is just as annoying every time. How do cows and horses grow muscles when all they eat is their greens?
Previously known as Soya, Jalofoods has been producing an answer to this reoccurring query for almost three decades: low-carb, high-protein tofu. Tofu itself is much, much older than the Jalofoods factory in Tammisaari, but when it comes to its presence in Finland, the company can be called a forerunner. It’s only in the past few years that the selection of plant-based options in restaurants and supermarkets has grown more and more abundant, so Jalofoods has taken a head start.
“When Henrik Nyberg founded the company in 1989, not a lot of people were talking about the rise of plant-based protein,” says Jouko Riihimäki, commercial director at Jalofoods. “The core of his idea was to produce genuinely tasty food with actual nutritional value, respecting old Japanese recipes and traditions.”
The ownership has since changed and the list of ingredients expanded. Last year, Jalofoods acquired Finnish Palkuainen, a company producing tempeh from soya, lupine and fava beans, so Jalotofu will be joined by Jalotempe later this year. The range of tofu flavours has also grown, most recently with chilli and beetroot.
It’s all about plants
Despite the obvious vegetarian and vegan trend, globally meat consumption is still on the rise. Riihimäki doesn’t see Jalofoods working towards replacing or eradicating meat; rather, the aim is add to the alternatives that enable people to make their diets healthier and more sustainable, without forgetting animal welfare issues.
“People are increasingly aware of the effects of food production on both their health and the environment,” he notes. “The fact is that the biggest increase in sales doesn’t come from full-on vegans and vegetarians as such, but from people who choose to reduce their meat consumption and opt for plant-based alternatives more often than they used to.”
This makes tempeh particularly interesting for a company like Jalofoods. Riihimäki explains that as tempeh has ‘more bite’ to it than tofu due its firmer structure, many omnivores find it easier to adjust to.
Other plant-based protein options might be included on the Jalofood menu later.
“Similarly to when an oil company becomes an energy company, we used to be known for soya, but now we’re about a lot more than just one plant – as important as it continues to be.”
Sustainability runs through the whole company. Riihimäki says that Jalofoods is constantly striving to find ways to make its processes more and more eco-friendly.
“We’ve got our own solar panels and use eco-certified energy, and we minimise waste by utilising byproducts. Being value-led and investing in sustainable solutions doesn’t need to be economically ineffective; rather, they are mutually supportive.”
For Gordon Ramsays and the rest of us
Jalofoods is the biggest tofu producer in the Nordic countries. Almost all Jalotofu products are certified organic and Fair Trade, and the soya beans grown at a partner farm run by families in Capanema, Brazil.
“Cleanliness, naturalness and fairness can’t be compromised,” Riihimäki says. “Although tofu is, by definition, processed, our goal is to process it as carefully and naturally as possible, following organic principles and only using the best ingredients.”
The selection of Jalotofu is a common sight in Finnish supermarkets, and it’s also used by ready-made food producers and restaurants, such as restaurant EGG’s vegan omelettes. Riihimäki points out that for a small company, growing together with partners that share similar values is a way forward.
“We don’t want to jump on the wagon with just anyone; it’s really important that our strategies and principles are similar.”
Jalofoods has established sales in Sweden and Estonia. Soon, the company is set out to hop on shop shelves in Norway and Denmark, later Germany and Baltics.
Entering markets isn’t the biggest challenge; what needs to be worked on is making more people find plant-based proteins a credible alternative to what their plates are filled with now. With the help of partners, Jalofoods caters for both people cooking from scratch and those looking for the easiest and quickest option.
“There are fans of slow food, but the world is moving toward a more and more hectic direction,” Riihimäki points out. “Not everyone is Gordon Ramsay; we want to offer sustainable vegetarian food that suits all lifestyles.”