KITCHENER — A protein-rich food with exotic origins is providing a new market for Ontario’s soybean growers. It’s called tempeh and it has been a staple food in Indonesia for centuries.
Henry’s Tempeh, a fast-growing Kitchener company has now introduced the soy-based product to Ontario consumers, including distribution deals with major supermarket chains.
Tempeh is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form with the help of fungi starter culture.
Tofu has been the most popular soy-based food on the market, but gets snubbed by some consumers because of its bland taste and spongy texture.
The folks behind Henry’s Tempeh say their products have many advantages over tofu. It has a solid texture and a nutty, earthy taste. It has twice as much protein content as tofu, much more fibre and the fermentation process helps break down the protein, making it more digestible.
“It has a lot of growth potential. Tofu has been on the market for 20-30 years but this is just hitting the main- stream,” said Phil Diceanu who co-owns the business with Jason Jurchuk.
Diceanu said Tempeh can be marinated, grilled, toasted or baked for use in a wide variety of recipes including pastas, curries and stews.
The soy product has an obvious appeal to the growing number of vegan and vegetarian consumers, but Diceanu says a large segment of the company’s market are folks just interested in exploring new foods.
Henry’s Tempeh buys most of its soybeans from Konzelmann Farms, a 2,000-acre family owned and operated farm in Lambton County that has specialized in growing and processing certified organic crops since 1999.
“We pay quite a premium for certified organic soybeans but that’s what consumers are looking for,” said Diceanu. He says the market for high quality organic soybeans is clearly growing. He get inquiries from all over the world from entrepreneurs interested in starting a tempeh company and the most frequent question is where his company sources its organic soybeans.
The company is named for its founder, Henry Schmidt, who started the business on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia back in 2002. Schmidt moved the company to Kitchener, and Paul Sauder, who spent a number of years in Indonesia, joined the business. Sauder bought the company in 2012 and brought in his friends, Diceanu and Jurchuk. In 2016 the company moved into a new 2,400 sq. ft facility in a Kitchener business park . The plant was expanded again last year on the same site to meet growing demand. Sauder left the business last year and Diceanu and Jurchuk took over.
Henry’s Tempeh is sold in 300 stores from Manitoba to Nova Scotia, including Metro, Food Basics and Farm Boy, as well as a number of smaller organic food retailers.
Tempeh is available in its original flavour and four new flavours — curry, basil, red pepper and kasha. Henry’s Tempeh is pasteurized and ready to eat straight out of the package. The refrigerated products can last unopened for four months.