- Tofurky is officially launching Moocho as a spinoff brand making dairy-free products. Moocho's Cheddar, Mozzarella and Fiesta Blend Shreds, and Just Plain Yum, Strawberry and Garden Vegetable Spreads will debut next month at Natural Products Expo West and will arrive in grocery stores nationwide this summer.
- The brand was initially created in 2018 as a vehicle to sell the dairy-free cheesecakes that were included in Tofurky's Holiday Feasts that year. Last year, the line expanded to include three cheesecake flavors: Triple Berry Swirl, New York Style Vanilla and Chocolate.
- "Category research suggests shoppers see a gap in the plant-based cheese category where brands haven’t been able to provide a taste and texture that people crave," Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Moocho and Tofurky said in a statement emailed to Food Dive. "As a category, we can do better now, with more ingredient options available."
Tofurky has been teasing this sort of launch for years, so it's no surprise the brand is jumping into the plant-based dairy space. After Tofurky launched its first Holiday Feast with a Moocho cheesecake in 2018, Marcia Walker, the company's vice president of research and development, told Food Business News they were "playing with" different ways to serve flexitarians.
"We’re really excited to see where we can go with this and potentially look at other dairy replacement products... Maybe not just desserts but other dairy-like products that people have a hard time finding if they’re trying not to consume animal products," she told the trade publication. "We’re really excited about some of the new ingredients that we can use and innovate around those to get the right texture and flavor, and perhaps it’s going to be a cheese or something like that, but we’re excited to see how that takes us away from some of the meat substitutes."
The success of Tofurky's cheesecake line likely cemented the plans to press forward on a product line vastly different than what consumers are used to seeing from the company. Although Moocho is jumping into a crowded category, it has something very different going for it: the fact that it was created by a company known for its plant-based meat. The vast majority of plant-based cheese companies concentrate on honing their dairy alternative products. Well-known plant-based cheese brands Miyoko's Creamery, Kite Hill, Daiya and Follow Your Heart don't have meat products, though Daiya does make allergy-friendly frozen items like pizza and burritos. The closest company to this model is Field Roast, which sells plant-based sausages, deli slices, nuggets and a cylindrical holiday "Celebration Roast" in addition to Chao plant-based cheese.
With its own brand name, it remains to be seen if sales and brand recognition of Moocho will be boosted by the name of legacy plant-based Tofurky. The packaging features the same pastel colors and cartoons featured on Tofurky's branding, and the cheesecake box says "Created for you by your friends at Tofurky" on the side. When Moocho was officially spun off last year, Athos told trade press the different branding was on purpose.
"We felt a creamy, sweet product like cheesecake would be better suited to dairy-inspired branding than the savory, protein-anchored Tofurky brand," Athos told VegNews.
Though without much cross-branding, perhaps Tofurky is hoping Moocho can stand on its own. After all, plant-based cheese is both lucrative and growing. According to Nielsen data collected by the Good Food Institute, plant-based cheese sales were worth $133.2 million between August 2017 and August 2018 — up 41% from the year before. This growth rate is faster than that of plant-based meat, which the data found to be 23%.
The biggest question is whether the taste, texture and behavior of Moocho's products can be enough like the dairy standard to perform well on the market. Top plant-based cheese producers say that perfecting this type of product is both exceedingly difficult — and the secret to their success.
Cheese isn't the only big new area Tofurky is getting into. The legacy plant-based meat brand recently released a plant-based beef-style burger, which debuted at 600 Target stores nationwide last month. While both plant-based cheese and burgers are getting fairly competitive, Tofurky's 25-year history has shown the company knows what it takes to persevere.