‘The promise of plant-based foods has not changed,’ Tofurky CEO talks post-acquisition strategy

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Tofurky
Image Credit: Tofurky

Related tags Tofurky plant-based meat Meat alternatives

Nearly a year after its acquisition, Tofurky is capitalizing on the synergies with its parent company Moringa Nutritional Foods as the brand prepares to grow its retail and global presence despite headwinds facing the plant-based market, company CEO Jaime Athos told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Moringa has a global footprint. They have a lot of engineers and a lot of really smart process engineering know-how, which we've benefited from. Our efficiencies are measurably improved [and our manufacturing] uptime is improved — all those things that really matter to a company in a low-margin business.” 

Leveraging global capacity to grow the Tofurky brand in the US, overseas

Earlier this year, Moringa Nutritional Foods acquired​ the family-owned and -operated Tofurky and its sister brand Moocho for an undisclosed sum of money to improve operations, product development, and expand its reach. 

In the new year, Tofurky will launch “new flavor profiles within categories [Tofurky has] been strong in for a while” and new products based on a collaboration with its new parent company, Athos said. Additionally, the company will launch new formulations for several of its products to improve the taste of the products. 

“Tofurky is going to be launching some big milestone leaps forward with some products that we've been selling for many, many years, and we're excited about that. I think it'll resonate more with consumers, but I think we also need to set our expectations. Even if you look at the real animal-meat world, there's no one product [or] one brand that resonates with everybody, and I think that we forget that sometimes when we're evaluating plant-based products.” 

Tofurky is also using the combined capabilities to restart its expansion into global markets, Athos said.  

“Tofurky was much more global pre-COVID, but we retracted to focus on the domestic market. [With] so many supply chain disruptions ... that was really all that we could keep up with at the time. But now, in partnership with Moringa, we're going to extend our reach again and get out to some key plant-based hotspots in the global marketplace.”

COVID changed the trajectory of the plant-based meat market

In 2023, the plant-based protein category has faced several challenges​ from lower funding to slumping consumer demand in several key categories. However, Athos sees that the mission of plant-based hasn’t changed, and the industry is still feeling the impacts that started during the COVID pandemic.

"There's also a crisis of confidence in plant-based. A lot of that ultimately probably derives from consumer demand changes ... but I think that the promise of plant-based foods has not changed,” Athos said. “There have been all these disruptive dynamics in our lives from COVID, and the concerns that created, all the economic ripples, the supply chain disruptions, and all that, and it caught the plant-based market at a really vulnerable time."

Athos is also “starting to see glimmers of optimism” in terms of investment, with “plant-based-focused investment funds cropping up.” The plant-based meat startups that are entering the market now are also adjusting their business plans to survive in this market, he added.

“This new generation that we're seeing spin up, or just very incrementally start up now, their business plans are designed a little bit differently. Maybe, they're not making such a big consumer-facing retail play with all the additional costs that come with that. Maybe, they're finding partnerships with restaurant chains and being their plant-based technology partners and doing it in a way that is probably a little more incremental in its growth rate but maybe more sustainable in its economic structure.”

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