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Terre Haute turns out tofu.

Terre Haute Turns Out Tofu

The pumpkin pie consumed at Thanksgiving by William Roach, vice president of Terre Haute-based Kyoto Food Corp. USA, was 50 percent tofu. And he dares "anyone who tastes it to tell the difference."

Kyoto Food is a joint venture involving Roach and his wife, Setsuko, along with four Japanese investors, including the company's president, Yoshimasa Yamashita. The company started churning out tubs of tofu late last year, and plans to be the largest tofu manufacturer in the United States.

Tofu, born 10 centuries ago in China, is high in protein and low in calories, cholesterol, sodium and Fat. It is made from coagulated soybean milk and water, and resembles cream cheese in look and appearance, though it's softer. Soybeans are soaked in water for 12 to 18 hours, then pressure-cooked for an hour before the milk is extracted and coagulated into a cake. Next, it's cut, packaged, sterilized and shipped to grocery store produce sections, where heatlh-minded shoppers can purchase it for 99 cents to $1.49 per package.

Tofu is the miracle meat sought by health-food nuts and less nutty calorie and cholesterol watchers. It takes on the flavor of whatever it's mixed with, from meat loaf and taco filling to puddings and pies, so that only a fraction of the usual sinful ingredients are needed. And according to William Roach, it's nearly impossible to tel the difference.

Miracle it may be, but Americans in general fear it. It may be the squishy consistency or the fact that it's packed in a tub of water. Or, as Kyoto Food executives speculate, it may simply be that Americans don't know what to do with it. While tofu is a staple of Asian and vegetarian diets, Kyoto plans to publicize the ways meat-eating Americans can use it in dishes with which they're more familiar.

Tofu does sell better on the coasts than it does in middle America. So why Terre Haute for this venture? Or even the Midwest, for that matter? "They didn't come here expecting to build in the Midwest," Roach admits, referring to the Japanese investor, "but we enticed them."

Roach, a former state representative, and his wife thought about what they would want to know if they were investing in a foreign country. Then they got into contact with the agencies and individuals that could provide the Japanese with local answers to those types of questions. They talked to everyone from the lieutenant governor to local county councilmen about community support, state funding, licensing and possible locations. Then, they made themselves completely accessible for questioning by the prospective investors. They even set up meetings between the investors and Japanese families in Terre Haute to give them a more personal and unbiased evaluation of the community. Apparently, their work was impressive.

Thus far, Kyoto Food Corp.'s major clients are primarily Oriental food stores, but it hopes to secure contracts with grocers such as Marsh Supermarkets Inc. and Kroger Co. It also hopes to reach an institutional sales market, meaning if all goes well schoolchildren could be eating tofu tacos with their tapioca.
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Title Annotation:Kyoto Food Corp. USA
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:company profile
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Indiana's smallest telephone company.
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