The success story of Tofurky

Those days in tents are over:

Vegan festive roast made in USA

In an interview with Seth Tibbot, Founder of Tofurky

Veganz: Seth, I have read about you that in the seventies you have lived in a tent in Tennessee and made handmade tempeh on your own. What made you leave your tent and found Tofurky?Seth at Hope Coop 1980 Large File

Seth: In the summer of 1977 I have worked as an adventure educator in the forest of west Tennessee. It was very hot, the perfect temperature for making tempeh! Since I was a vegan/vegetarian, I regularily cooked soybeans in a pot and ate it with tortillas and burgers. Slowly, tempeh became my favourite meal and when I returned to Oregon, I began to produce tempeh for friends, family and visitors of the conference center near my home. I saw the full shelves in the supermarket and was thrilled by the cereal department. Six years ago you had to make your own cereal, as there were none in the supermarket. I thought, tempeh and soy products would certainly follow the trend of cereal, so I invested $2.500, bought pots and pans and started to manufacture tempeh at night in the kitchen of the local health food store.

 

Nolichucky

Veganz: Where do you produce today?

Seth: Today, we produce our tempeh and Tofurky products in two facilities, which are over 6000 m² combined. This winter, we want to move our production into a brand new 3000 m² state of the art facility meeting the highest possible ecological standards. Worldwide, there are only ten other food factories that have the same standards as us. We have 400 solar panels, which supply our offices, part of our equipment and our free electric car station on our parking lot.

Veganz: What is so special about your products? Why do people like Tofurky so much?New Plant Wes

Seth: People love the clear description of the ingredients, our ecological principles and the great taste and quality of our products. They also like the fact, that we are a family business and not part of a big enterprise. But the taste is probably the most important reason. We believe, if a product doesn’t taste good, customers will only buy it once. If it is too expensive, clients cannot afford to buy it very often. Our motto is “Taste is king and price is Queen.”

Veganz: What is your favourite product?

Seth: I like all Tofurky products but at the moment my favourite would be our new slightly seasoned Slow Roasted Chick’n . My stepson and current CEO Jaime has helped with the creation of the texture and our chef recipe developer Greg Rekas has perfected the taste. It tastes great. My wife cooks it with barbecue sauce on our BBQ in the backyard and we eat it with vegetables and pasta.

Veganz: Last year the Tofurky company celebrated its 20th anniversary. Two centuries ago, it was nearly impossible, at least in Germany, to impress many people with a vegan sausage. Fortunately, meanwhile the market has changed drastically and vegan nutrition has become very popular. How do you at Tofurky perceive this positive change within the society? What do you think is the main driver for this development? 

Seth: In the 35 years, I have been working at Tofurky, I have seen immense changes. In 1980, food stores were happy to get any kind of products to fill their shelves. Some products were good some less so. We at Tofurky believe, that the fundamental truth about the mistreatment of animals and the detrimental impact of meat consumption on human beings and the ecosystem are only now coming to the surface. It is no longer only vegans but also meat consumers, who want to reduce their meat intake, are now conscious of these issues. We believe, that in 100 years, proteins will mostly be derived from plants and that future generations will hardly believe that animals had been treated so badly.

Veganz: Let us talk about our partnership! When did you first meet Jan and what was your first impression?

Seth: I met Jan through my son. In 2011, we have investigated the European market for meat substitutes, but the market research was expensive. So I sent my son and his friend to Berlin, Amsterdam and London, so that they go into shops and write down the products and prices on the shelves. They have gone in the first Veganz store and Jan showed them everything. Both of them couldn’t believe their eyes, when they saw the vast range of products! It took an entire day to collect all  information on Veganz.  Shortly after the first meeting with Jan, we started with the direct collaboration and delivered the first Tofurky products without detours to Veganz.

Veganz: Was it a good decision to collaborate with Veganz ? Is the partnership a success story?

Seth: We are very satisfied and impressed by Jan’s vision and the fact that the company already has so many branches. It is a great collaboration and currently we print our first German labels. I have been in Berlin twice now and I can’t believe how Veganz has, along with others, established the worldwide center of the vegan movement in Berlin. We like and appreciate the bold vision of Veganz and we enjoy working together with you.

Veganz: Ok, last question: How does the future of Tofurky look like?

Seth: Under the leadership of Jaime Athos the future of Tofurky looks bright. We continue to try to improve our existing products and to create new, innovative products. We love to develop new products, that are not yet available on the vegan market. The famous Tofurky Roast did exactly that, namely to offer vegans something delicious and extraordinary for the festive dinner. Wherever there is something missing for vegans and those who want to avoid eating meat, we want to be there!

Veganz: Thanks for the interview, Seth!