I am interested in the way that a new product goes from inception to mass-market.
I don't know the origins of tofu. I know the tofu I loved to eat from the early ‘70s when I first visited Japan. Much of what Japan eats came from some earlier invention in China. Tofu could be one of them.
I do remember a 1971 disagreement with Stewart Brand about a $50 million 1965 grant by the US government to turn soybeans into an edible popular food. The crap that came out of the grant was a canned tasteless mess. The grantees should've hired an anthropologist to check on soybeans around the world, instead of nutritionists.
In the mid-1970s I met Bill Shurtleff and his partner Aoyagi Akiko. They had just written a book on how to make tofu and how to use it in recipes. I gave them business advice on how to promote their book. Basically traveling around the United States to hippie grocery stores doing demonstrations and giving out samples.
I was also an advisor to a Briarpatch member, one of the earliest hippy tofu manufacturing plants in Marin County, Wildwood. Tofu manufacturing plants, which are usually local, sprung up all over the United States as hippies began to use the food. (Of course there had been Asian producers of tofu in Asian communities for a century earlier.)
Roughly a decade later the technology for producing long-lasting tofu in irradiated containers reach the market and big chain store shelves.
This is a case where hippies created a new domestic market because of their incredible willingness to experiment with food and their willingness to try new non-meat innovations.
To summarize: tofu, an Asian food, entered the mass American food market via the hippies, a book that demonstrated the use and manufacture of the new product, and sample displays throughout the uniquely hippie distribution food network, was the mechanism.