World Vegan Day: Tofurky Founder Celebrates

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How does one of the world’s most prominent vegans celebrate World Vegan Day on November 1?

“It’s a normal day for us,” said Seth Tibbott. “But if I am celebrating, I might put a Tofurky roast or Tofurky ham in my smoker and bring it in and cook it with some veggies.”

Tibbott, who lives in Hood River, Oregon, is the inventor of Tofurky, one of the leading brands in plant-based foods. Tibbott took a quirky path on the way to success, reflective of his quirky brand.

The idea of making tempeh, a fermented soybean meat alternative, first percolated while Tibbott was visiting a Tennessee hippie commune in the 1970s. His idea has since morphed exponentially: Tofurky now has 190 employees, 100,000 square feet across four buildings in Hood River, and is sold in six of seven continents worldwide.

The idea of making tempeh, a fermented soybean meat alternative, first percolated while Tibbott was visiting a Tennessee hippie commune in the 1970s. His idea has since morphed exponentially: Tofurky now has 190 employees, 100,000 square feet across four buildings in Hood River, and is sold in six of seven continents worldwide.

You can read all about it in his recently released book, “In Search of the Wild Tofurky: How a Business Misfit Pioneered Plant‑Based Foods Before They Were Cool.”

Growing Bolder caught up with Tibbott on the eve of National Vegan Day. He sounded very much like a proud papa.

“We’re the number two or three player in that category,” he said. “We’re selling everything we can make right now. We’re in 27,000 stores, selling all over the world. 

“The sun never sets on the Tofurky empire my friend.”

The COVID-19 climate has impacted his business, in a good way. Tibbott isn’t the type to capitalize on people’s pain, but Tofurky and other plant-based products have been riding the wave of concern, as consumers have become leery of eating meat.

COVID-19 is considered to have a “zoonotic source.” Because the origin is traced back to a bat-borne virus in China, and since contact between humans and bats is highly unusual, the virus likely was transmitted through another animal species handled by humans.

“In March and April, we were getting double orders,” he said. “Huge months. As panic buying died down, we went back to not normal but above normal. We are still around 23 percent up for the year. For a mature brand that’s a really good number.

“Covid has caused change in behavior and people’s diet. Everybody is focused on their health right now. You don’t want to get sick and that includes what they’re putting in their bodies. And so we’re seeing that on our end as well.”

Tibbott joins a number of other prominent practicing vegans, including Ellen DeGeneres, Olivia Wilde and Woody Harrelson.

Here’s to a healthier America. Whether you are a vegan or not.