Tasty and nutritious
Dragonfly has capitalised on the growth of the vegan market to become a principal supplier of tofu in the UK
Tracing the history of Dragonfly Foods, one cannot help but marvel at the remarkable ascent of the tofu-making company. From a humble start in 1984, when two ladies began producing the Japanese food at the back of a small kitchen, Dragonfly is now calling the shots in the tofu-making industry, and does not shy away from its ambition to become the biggest supplier of tofu not just in the UK, but all across Europe.
Two main reasons can be outlined as the drivers of the company’s growth. First, its recent acquisition by the Japanese food giant, Hikari Miso, and second, the incredible popularity veganism has reached in the past several years. Dragonfly’s National Account Manager, Indy Jhalli discusses the impact these events had on the business: “Hikari Miso is the third largest supplier of miso in the world, and it was originally interested in us as a potential distributor of its miso. However, the company representative was so impressed with the idea of producing tofu on a large scale that he decided to invest in Dragonfly. As a result of this major investment Dragonfly was able to move into our magnificent new factory, install a stateof- the-art tofu production line improving not only the production capacity exponentially, but also the quality and consistency of Dragonfly Tofu.
“It is also key to mention that the new factory enables us to work with some of the biggest food manufacturers in the country. These have certain requirements and want to see that you can ensure that work is being done in a risk-free way. Previously, because we were so small, we could not segregate specific areas effectively, but the site is so huge now that we can put all of our equipment in the right areas, and have the proper flow going through the factory,” Indy explains.
Dragonfly has additionally benefitted from the massive interest people have taken in vegan products over the course of the last decade. Indy comments: “The investment we received makes sense, because the vegan trend does not seem to be going away any time soon. All around the world, we see a reduced consumption of meat due to ethical reasons, the impact on the environment, and of course, with regards to one’s own health and wellbeing. It is no wonder we saw a solid increase in our sales last year.”
Indy extolls the nutrition values of tofu: “It is very high in protein. It contains as much protein as a piece of chicken. Tofu also provides you with 44 per cent of your daily calcium needs, and 40 per cent of your daily iron needs. It is very low in fats, has very few calories, has no cholesterol and is gluten-free.” Part of Dragonfly’s mission is to change the perception UK consumers have of the product. “People here are used to silken tofu, which is being offered in Japanese restaurants. Silken tofu is smooth, soft and silky, but UK consumers seem to prefer a product that has a firmer texture,” Indy observes. “The silken tofu is not as robust as Dragonfly momen tofu and does not handle as well during the cooking process often breaking up as it is cooked. The main benefit of our tofu is that it is a firmer texture than the tofu currently on the market. We arrive at our super firm tofu, thanks to innovative manufacturing techniques.”
Dragonfly has gradually expanded the range of products it offers, and the business’ long-term vision includes the introduction of more exciting new products. As it stands now, Dragonfly produces organic tofu, tofu burgers, tofu soysages (as they are being called playfully), organic tatty, and ready meals in pots. Indy goes on to review all of these in greater detail: “Under the organic tofu category, we have natural tofu, smoked tofu, and marinated tofu, with the latter being our most popular product at the moment, because of its lovely savoury flavour. We marinate tofu in Japanese tamari soy sauce with a number of spices to give it its savoury taste. It is worthwhile pointing out that the shelf life of these products is quite long, because we seal and vacuum-pack them.
“We make our organic burgers from rice, tofu, and okara, which is the by-product of making tofu. Okara is full of fibre and contains many nutritional elements including a small amount of protein at around eight-ten per cent. We use fresh vegetables from a local farm for our burgers. We have four flavours of burgers– Mexican spice, country vegetable, mushroom and garlic, and tomato and basil. We see these burgers as a good entry level into veganism. We also have our organic tatty, which is the only product we make that has no soya in it. It is made from potato flakes, rice, onions, and cabbage,” Indy adds.
He continues, driving our attention to the singularity of Dragonfly’s soysages. “They are quite unique, because, unlike other vegan sausages that fall apart when cut, Dragonfly’s are firmer with a chewy texture similar to that of meat. We offer leek and potato, and a Devonshire soysage.” The last product Indy introduces to us is the organic tofupots the company first launched in 2016. “We have Moroccan Tagine and Thai Green Curry, and they were the first of their kind in the market, because for the first time, we were able to produce a ready to go meal that provides tofu as the main source of protein.”
Having embarked on a successful partnership with Morrisons in 2017, when Dragonfly achieved a listing of its products across 46 stores in the South West, the tofu manufacturer has set the bar higher for this year, as Indy targets future collaboration with retailers of the calibre of Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, and Waitrose. “We would like to work with the biggest names in the industry, in order to popularise our brand, but also to promote the message that you can still consume healthy food without eating meat. We are very excited at our collaboration with one of the top retailers later this year.”