Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Tofurky: Funny Name-Meat Alternative for Vegan Thanksgiving Day

Unless you’re a vegan, live with a vegan, or invited a vegan to Thanksgiving dinner — most of us never think about the alternatives for vegans or vegetarians on Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s a David vs. Goliath tale about Seth Tibbot, the man who envisioned Tofurky.


Picture your quintessential environmentally-conscious 60’s free spirit type who wanted to start his own health food brand in the early 80s, but was soon so bereft of income that he wound up actually living in a tree house!

How Seth didn’t go bankrupt puzzles him to this day, especially since he never really studied business (when he did finally take a business class, the teacher asked “How many of you are in business to save the world?” and his hand shot up, not realizing that the question had been asked rhetorically. The professor’s real question soon followed: And how many of you want to make money!!?”). 


Seth had two other major obstacles to overcome along his winding pathway to success. First, his initial line of tempeh-based food products were going south fast it seemed tempeh wasn’t becoming the household word he thought it might. Second, resistance to the concept and name of his next product line was so strong, he thought he might go straight from the tree house to the doghouse. 


Seth’s concept was to provide a meat alternative that wasn’t another Gardenburger wannabe, but a replacement ideal for Thanksgiving or any other day of the year. The name he came up with was Tofurky, and despite initial roadblocks, an important new brand was born. 


As is happened, Seth’s big break came from Alex Trebek, of all people, when that night’s “Jeopardy” contestants were asked to name a Thanksgiving dish prepared by Seth Tibbott. Soon, Tofurky Roasts caught on big time, and eventually Tofurky Deli Slices and other lines were introduced to make the brand a true year-round treat for vegetarians and health-conscious consumers everywhere (to his credit, Seth lightheartedly recognizes that Tofurky isn’t everybody’s cup of tofu).  Today, with a menu of products that also includes sausages and franks, Tofurky’s parent company Turtle Island is the fastest growing meat alternative and the fourth largest meat substitute brand in the country, not to mention the dominant player in both the Refrigerated Meatless Deli Slices and Other Refrigerated Meat Alternatives categories.


Although Seth Tibbott climbed down from his tree house many years ago, his heart and soul have in no way gone “corporate.” If anything, the success of his company has led him to give more than ever before to the environment and other causes near and dear to him.

Thanks to Crier PR for sharing this enterpreneurial bite with me. Seth, if you’re reading this please comment and let us know what causes are near and dear to you.


    Leave a Reply