While looking around for tempeh recipes online earlier this morning, I ended up stumbling upon an article about David Mintz, the creator of Tofutti dairy-free products. Now the company's CEO and director (and supposedly earning somewhere around $800,000 a year), Mintz has definitely come far from his more simple beginnings as a delicatessen owner. Curiously enough, what drove Mintz to create the line was anything but a concern for animal sentience:
Recognizing a needy market. An observant Jew, Mintz was aware that many Jews would dearly love to eat ice cream (milchig) for dessert after a meal that includes meat (fleishig) — something forbidden by Jewish law. Good-tasting pseudo-ice cream without milk would do nicely. Besides, a great many people (30 to 60 million Americans, according to various estimates) are allergic to milk products. Their stomachs cannot break down the lactose in milk, so they get bellyaches and other abdominal problems. Indeed, many people, as they grow older, become somewhat lactose intolerant — including Mintz himself.In fact, the article pretty much limits itself to focusing on the religious reasons surrounding Mintz's creation of Tofutti, as well as on how the products benefit those who are lactose-intolerant. There's not a single mention of vegetarianism or veganism. What's even more interesting is that Mintz himself admits in the article that fish is his favourite food and that one of his hobbies is raising Japanese koi.
I hopped over to the Tofutti website to read its origins story there and pretty much found more of the same, as it was explained how Mintz initially sought to provide dairy-free substitutes for his New York delicatessen for his customers who kept kosher. Although veganism is mentioned in passing in the company website's FAQs, the focus on the website is kept on the religious reasons the products are dairy-free (as well as on the fact that they're cholesterol-free -- a health bonus). Furthermore, it's explained that many Tofutti products aren't, in fact, vegan. All of their frozen food entrées and all of their cookies contain eggs, plus one of their Better Than Cream Cheese varieties isn't even vegetarian, but contains smoked salmon.
It was interesting for me to read about this since, aside from their more straightforward dairy substitutes, Tofutti products aren't widely available in stores in my area. Plus, I don't generally seek them out since I avoid soy products that aren't organic, since most soy produced in North America is GMO unless labelled otherwise. It's funny that a company that provides foods widely-enjoyed by so many vegans and vegetarians came to do so more or less accidentally in a way that had nothing to do with animal ethics.