What started in the 80s in a small Freiburg kitchen with a sack of soybeans and the passion for tofu of a few has delighted an increasing number of people that have followed in its path. An essential experience made along this path of shaping and growth: the passion, diligence and energy that we put into our tofu is given back by it many times over. And this is how Taifun carves its way...
Four kilos of fresh tofu for the market
In 1985, Klaus Kempff founds the company Life Food to cultivate sprouts and shoots. The idea to produce tofu is brought back by him from the United States. The first tofu is produced by hand in a rented cellar space, using simple equipment − four kilos per week that are sold fresh on the Freiburger Münster market.
After meeting Wolfgang Heck a year later, who is immediately inspired by the idea, they experiment on the product, refine and improve it alongside a handful of tofu enthusiasts and develop new production areas.
At the beginning of 1987, the decision is made to sell tofu in the newly opened Freiburger Markthalle (an indoor market hall). Wolfgang Heck founds the company Taifun and takes on the responsibility for the market hall and the vegetarian party catering. From the "mother company", Life Food, Taifun receives a daily supply of fresh tofu for processing. Bit by bit, the offer of tofu expands to include the first vacuum-sealed tofu products. This enables delivery over greater distances and Taifun Tofu can be introduced into the organic food retail market − as this product was organic from day one. The weekly production expands to 500 kilograms and is moved to a new production space in the industrial area Freiburg-Nord.
The way to professionalism
In 1990, Life food and Taifun are joined together to form a GmbH (company with limited liability) and we begin to aim for a professional structure. The brand name "Taifun" becomes the creative force. Our products are developing on the market at a whirlwind pace that demands vast restructuring, investments, more employees and a larger production space.
In 1995, we find the ideal premises in the industrial area Freiburg-Hochdorf and, to generate further capacities, we build our "Technical Tower" for our energy supply. Our greatest joy: for the first time, we are able to offer a trainee position in the commercial sector.
In 1997, Heck initiates the cultivation of domestic organic soy with regional farmers and we become the first company in Freiburg to receive an environmental audit certification. Life Food GmbH establishes itself as the leading market manufacturer of organic tofu in Germany and, for the first time, delivers abroad in Europe. In the end of the year 1999, the company employs over 35 people, the weekly tofu production amounts to around 12 tons.
The first record harvest in the region
The BSE crisis, followed by other food scandals as well as the growing interest in a nutrition-conscious diet raise the demand for organic products. We expand our product line and with around 300 hectares of organic soy cultivation at the Upper Rhine, we breathe life into our statement "transparency from the cultivation to the finished product". In 2005, the domestic soy cultivation once again has a record harvest. A fair trade project with a Brazilian Demeter farmer complements our soy supply.
We receive numerous awards for our products and services, such as the "Innovationspreis Bio-Lebensmittel-Verarbeitung“ („Innovation Prize Organic Food Processing") in the category small and medium-sized enterprises in 2005. With the introduction of an environmental management system of ISO 14000 standard, the focus on the quality of our work increasingly gains importance − and the company continues to grow: in 2005, Life Food employs 90 people.
A topic which we are especially devoted to is our GM (Genetic Modification)-free status. It is our desire to leave behind a natural and intact environment for the next generations and therefore we go public with the campaign "Taifun against GM". In 2009, we receive the distinction "organic brand of the year" as well as having four of our products awarded with the golden DLG (German Agricultural Society) Award.
In 2011, our unique and eco-friendly refrigerating machine is completed. We furthermore partake in a research project that strives towards the development of new organic soy varieties in order to enable the cultivation of organic soy all over Germany. We test these varieties on their suitability for tofu. Furthermore, for the first time, we cover 75 percent of our soy demand with our European contract farming.
Top Management with a future
Next to the Taifun founder and longstanding manager, Alfons Graf becomes manager of Taifun. At the same time, the staff increases to over 160 employees and nine trainees are being trained in four different professions.
With the newly opened "Taifun-Technikum", we create an ideal frame for the newly created sectors "Research and Development" and "Centre for Soybean Cultivation". Buying an adjacent plot gives us new leeway for the developments of the coming years and firmly establishes Life Food/Taifun's production site in Freiburg. We introduce a quality management system: In 2014, we got certified according to the standard ISO 9001.
2014 is also a year with important changes for Life Food: Taifun co-founder Wolfgang Heck establishes the Heck Company Foundation and contributes all the shares to it. Now, Wolfgang Heck focuses on his new position as the „founder“. His successor as CEO is Elisabeth Huber, an employee of many years, appointed as of October 1st, 2015. From now on, Elisabeth Huber and Alfons Graf are the top management.
Paving the way for further growth
At the end of 2015, one and a half year after the ground-breaking ceremony, the construction work for our new production building is finished. The extension is the biggest investment in the history of our company and will provide additional capacity for our tofu production. The organic production of soybeans remains an important objective: Our research project “1000 Gardens – The Soya Experiment” "1000 Gärten - Das Soja-Experiment", started in 2016, shall help to definitely establish the cultivation of soybeans in Germany. So our aim is to develop soy varieties able to grow all over the country.
We are already very proud of our commitment to top-quality soy: for the first time in 2017, we will be obtaining European soy exclusively - beans from Germany, Austria and France! We produce around 100 tons of tofu per week, 2 million packages of various tofu specialities leave our premises each month and we export to 16 European countries. We employ a permanent staff of roughly 240 and look forward to what the future brings!
30 years of tofu
In 2017, we will be celebrating our company's 30th anniversary. And we are commemorating the occasion not only with an anniversary-edition tofu: we are also changing our name. The company Life Food GmbH / Taifun-Tofuprodukte will now do business as Taifun-Tofu GmbH, which will create greater clarity about who we are and emphasize our identity as a tofu company. We will be celebrating all of these events with our families and guests at a festive open-house day in July.
In 2019, after 25 years, we introduce a new, more timeless logo design. Its minimalism reflects our concentration on our core competence: tofu expertise. And it’s the Year of Sustainability: We issue our second Common Good Balance Sheet, and in November we receive the German Sustainability Award 2020. This both honours our commitment to sustainable activities and business practices and encourages us to carry on. December 2019 brings another great achievement when the first soybean variety that we developed ourselves, in cooperation with the University of Hohenheim, receives approval. “Tofina” has exceptionally good qualities for tofu production and is ideally suited to cultivation in cooler climes.
In 2020 we have around 270 employees, and the demand for our tofu products is steadily rising. Despite the challenges this brings, not only in terms of production, we face the future with great confidence.