Oryana Natural Foods Market
Oryana Natural Foods Market
260 East Tenth Street | Traverse City, MI 49684 | (231) 947-0191

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What's Happening with the Oryana Tofu?

January 9, 2015, 12:00 am

As a member-owned cooperative, it is imperative that Oryana fulfill the needs and wants of our member-owners and customers. It is also critical that we remain fiscally responsible so we can support our staff and community far into the future.

Based on plenty of research, analysis, discussion, and deep consideration, we have made the difficult decision for the co-op to say goodbye to Soyworks, our in-house tofu making operation, by the end of January. As you can imagine, this was an emotional decision that involved much more than “just the numbers.” 

Oryana tofu has been part of our story and one of the great products Oryana has been known for in our community.  Our staff, current and past, as well as  members in the “working-member” days, have lovingly made tofu for decades and we honor all who have toiled in the heat and wet of Soyworks.

Oryana has been making tofu since purchasing the equipment in the 1970s from our sister co-op, the Grain Train, in Petoskey. For all these years, Oryana’s tofu has been a signature product made with certified organic, Michigan-grown beans.

The tofu industry, natural foods, and Oryana, however, have all experienced many changes over the last few years. Health concerns over soy-based products have dampened tofu sales at Oryana and across the board. At the same time, dramatic growth in Oryana’s prepared food department has resulted in pressure on the kitchen area, as well as freezer and cooler space. For example, our baking team, which cranks out dozens of popular goodies every day, is relegated to a small corner of the kitchen workspace.

To replace Soyworks, we are pleased to have found a new, high-quality Michigan-made, certified organic tofu from Rosewood Soy Products in Ann Arbor. We think you’ll be happy with the new tofu (including the price!) Oryana will use it as an ingredient in our prepared foods like Peanut Tofu and will continue to sell it in bulk, just as we do now with our Oryana-made product.

As the Tofu Door Closes, Another Door Opens

Members Will Get Even More of What They Want!

With every change comes opportunity. In this case we are thrilled to announce that you can expect exciting updates to the Lake Street Café later this year.

We are planning new offerings and new fixtures, a new hot bar, and showcasing of more baked goods! This will be supported by the additional kitchen space (made available by the change to Soyworks) and improved equipment, which makes us more efficient and provides our talented staff with a better and safer workspace.

We look forward to 2015 and providing more healthy, high quality foods for our community!

Tofu Q & A

Q: Why not continue to make tofu? It is delicious and it’s so unique that Oryana makes our own!
A: Soyworks tofu sales have been decreasing over the last several years. This is mirrored by other soy products, due in part to unfavorable information in the media about soy.

While that market shifted, sales in our Lake Street Café, baking and prepared foods have grown substantially. A day’s sales from our bakery is often tenfold that of tofu sales. 

A review by the Oryana finance department shows substantial losses when allocated overhead costs are considered. Also, the production space is underutilized—only about 30 hours of use per week in more than 200 square feet. Our kitchen and bakery teams can use that space every day (and hour!) of the week.

Q: What will the Soyworks space be used for?
A: Our prepared foods and bakery departments are bursting at the seams. The soy room will house the expanded Oryana bakery program and a walk-in blast chiller. These changes mean you’ll have an even better experience when visiting our Lake Street Café and shopping for prepared foods at the co-op.

Q: What is a blast chiller used for?
A: A blast chiller is used for cooling soups and entrees to meet Health Department requirements and provide quality products. This new system replaces the current, inefficient process of placing soups in our walk-in freezer. This also means more space for product storage for our Grocery department.

Q: What happens to the Soyworks Staff?
A: Oryana will make every effort to place the two staff members into positions that fit their skills and interests.

Q: Why not move Soyworks to an off-site location?
A: We explored moving to the Grand Traverse Food Shed Alliance Food Hub but estimates to move and buy new equipment for the location came in around $30,000 to $50,000. Our analysis shows that the expense and logistical challenges for offsite food service would not likely be cost effective until the co-op has three retail locations or more.

Q: What happens to the equipment?
A:Much of the equipment is old and in need of repair (another factor in our decision). We will see if anyone in the area would like to take over tofu production, but most likely we will need to recycle. 

Q: Will the new tofu cost more?
A: Good news! The new certified organic, Michigan-made tofu will cost the same or less than the Oryana product.

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