- Tofurky is launching a plant-based beef-style burger at more than 600 Target stores in the U.S. this month, according to a release. The two-patty packs are non-GMO and vegan.
- The burger is a combination of soy protein, vegetable protein and wheat gluten. It is seasoned with salt, onion, garlic and black pepper.
- Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Tofurky, said in the release that they decided to debut the new burger now because "many flexitarians resolve to go completely plant-based for the month of January."
Tofurky seems to be betting that its reputation as a legacy plant-based protein producer will help its latest innovation stand out on shelves despite increased competition.
The brand originally debuted its signature plant-based turkey replacement product back in 1995 and has more recently launched new products as the plant-based food and beverage segment has grown. This new plant-based burger comes after Tofurky recently accepted $7 million in private funding — the first debt position investment the private, family-owned business has ever taken on.
Despite its legacy reputation, it won't be easy for Tofurky to stand out in the crowded plant-based burger shelves. Other plant-based protein brands have dominated the space, including Impossible Foods, which started selling its burger in grocery stores last year, and Beyond Meat, which went public last year. But it's not just the plant-based giants. From Nestlé and Kellogg to Smithfield and Tyson, this trend has pushed big companies to launch more products in the space over the last year. Even grocery stores, like Costco and Kroger, are launching their own plant-based burger retail products.
Being a legacy veggie company in a market with new products that are gaining consumer attention is a difficult feat. Conagra's Gardein, Kellogg's MorningStar Farms and Kraft Heinz's Boca have moved aggressively to try to keep up their own portfolios as new products with a more meat-like texture and taste have come to market.
That seems to be the same case with Tofurky. The brand did previously launch a plant-based ground beef product, but it discontinued it to push out these new burgers, Forbes reported in October.
"We had a DIY product, but we rushed to market with it," Athos told Forbes. "You could shape it into a burger patty, but I think what happened with that one was we were never able to fully realize the quality we can get within our own kitchen. So, we scrapped that plan and pulled it from the market and started over."
Tofurky is also leaning into its sustainability efforts. Its patties will use recyclable cartons that offer 23% less paperboard material and inner packaging that has 69% less plastic film waste than others in the segment, according to the release. The company also claimed the burger's soy base is more sustainable compared to pea protein.
The new Tofurky burger will be made with soy, which is similar to the Impossible Burger and Kellogg's Incogmeato patty. Although using soy could make the taste and texture of the product more realistic, it could also face difficulty with consumers looking to avoid the ingredient, which is a top allergen. Pea protein has become an increasingly popular ingredient base in plant-based meat and for those looking to avoid soy. Beyond Meat's products use it, as well as Lightlife’s Plant-Based Burger and Nestlé’s Awesome Burger.
Plant-based foods are no longer just for vegans and vegetarians since consumers of all kinds are seeing them as an alternative to products like meat, milk, yogurt and cheese. Tofurky has seen that impact with its own sales, the company has sold more than 5 million holiday vegan roasts. As a result of increased interest, the company recently debuted a line of plant-based, dairy-free frozen cheesecakes and relaunched several flavors of frozen, plant-based Tofurky Pockets, which were discontinued in 2018.
Plant-based protein and meat alternative growth is projected to increase from $4.6 billion in 2018 to a massive $85 billion in 2030, according to investment firm UBS. Despite competition, that expected growth could push Tofurky and others to launch even more protein products in the space in the future.