The vegan old guard moves seamlessly into the future

26 April 2018

How do pioneering vegan companies stay relevant in a suddenly competitive marketplace?

If you're Tofurky, a plant-based food business founded in the early 1980s, you continue to build out your product line while collaborating to help young companies get their own products to market.

"We have humble ambitions personally but lofty ambitions to change the world," says CEO Jaime Athos. "That means we want everybody to succeed."

Besides, Athos says, the market is growing so fast that Tofurky doesn't have to worry about market share. The Hood River-based company is planning for 25% to 32% growth over last year, employee head count has gone from 130 to 190 in the past six months and recent launches include a "ham" roast with a glaze using beer from Portland's Hopworks Urban Brewery.

Tofurky shares its manufacturing facility with like minded startups and three years ago co-founded a trade group, the Plant Based Food Association; the 100 members include Blue Diamond Growers and Campbell's.

Mainstream retailers used to wait and see how vegan products performed at gourmet or natural food grocers. "That's changed," says Athos, referring to multimillion dollar accounts with Australian supermarket, Woolworths. "The really big retailers — they want to be market leaders."

Founded in 1987, organic foods stalwart Pacific Foods is quietly expanding its vegan repertoire. The Tualatin-based company isn't a vegan company per say but it now features 75 products that qualify as vegan. Several items are new as of last year, including a couple of stocks and six new nutmilks and beverages made from hazelnuts and cashews.

The demand for vegan and plant-based products has increased significantly in recent years," associate brand manager Kari Davis says. "We see the vegan consumer base growing and mainstream consumers are incorporating more plant-based options into their diets.

How does this company compete? "Our development team spends countless hours perfecting new products," Davis says. "This commitment has resulted in our current portfolio and will keep us relevant."

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