David Mintz wanted to create the dairy substitute so that observant Jews who could not mix milk and meat could enjoy the product

By Georgia Slater
March 09, 2021 11:52 AM
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David Mintz
Credit: Julio Cortez/AP/Shutterstock

David Mintz, the inventor Tofutti, a non-dairy brand that made ice cream and more, has died. He was 89.

The businessman died on Feb. 24 at a hospital in Englewood, New Jersey near his home in Tenafly, according to the Washington Post. He is survived by his sister and his son.

Steven Kass, the chief financial officer of Tofutti Brands, confirmed his death and said it was not related to COVID-19. Mintz had been in the Tofutti office less than two weeks before his death.

Born and raised in an Orthodox section of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mintz discovered there was a need for a non-dairy substitute for observant Jews that could not mix meat and milk.

Mintz owned several kosher delis in New York and decided to experiment with tofu after learning that the versatile soy product could help him develop kosher products for his stores.

According to the Post, Mintz first started his tofu research in 1972 after venturing to buy a carton of soy milk in Chinatown.

He would experiment with the vegetable protein for hours, telling Food & Drink magazine it was called "Tofu Time" and he'd "work into the wee hours of the morning testing all different things for tofu, adding sugar and more."

David Mintz
Credit: Julio Cortez/AP/Shutterstock

Nearly a decade later, Mintz, who was later dubbed the "P.T. Barnum of tofu," created Tofutti, a tofu-based ice cream that eventually developed into over 35 different plant-based products, according to the New York Times.

The invention consisted of "tofu emulsified with vegetable oil and mixed with alfalfa honey and other ingredients, which together took on a butter-fatty texture," the Times explained.

Mintz went on to expand his products to include tofu-based cheeses, ice cream bars, pizza, ravioli and more.

"I couldn't sleep nights," Mintz previously told the Times. "I'd be formulating, always formulating. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, just thinking about all the things I could do with tofu."

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In just a few years, his product took off and was being sold in big stores like Bloomingdale's and Zabars. In 1982, his company made more than $2 million and topped $17 million by 1985, according to the Post.

While competitors have tried to replicate Tofutti, Mintz said in 1986 that no one has "come close to the taste."

Today, Tofutti is part of a non-dairy ice cream market that will be worth $1.2 billion by 2025, Grub Street reported.