Counter Culture Reigns On: Meet Tofurky’s New CEO
If you’ve been to a natural products market in the last 30 years you may be familiar with the plant-based protein manufacturer, Tofurky. A pioneer in meat alternatives, Tofurky began as a fermentation specialist, pedaling tempeh to natural grocers in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1980s. Curiosity in shareable veg-friendly fare led founder Seth Tibbott to create Tofurky’s iconic holiday roast, which catapulted the organization onto tables and into holiday pop culture.
Today, Tofurky boasts more than 25 delicious vegan products, but its maturity hasn’t settled the privately held beast. In fact, its 35 year anniversary marks an exciting moment in Tofurky’s history, in welcoming incoming CEO Jaime Athos. Entering his tenth year at Tofurky, having held positions ranging from R&D to Operations (and a previous career in neurobiology), he is uniquely qualified to lead. Athos will largely focus on global sustainability during his tenure, which has the Tofurky staff energized for innovation, supply chain efficiencies and above all delicious, high-quality products.
Athos’ vision couldn’t come at a better time. He’ll be building a plant-based protein revolution that coincides with major news from the USDA, which is expected to release new dietary guidelines in 2015 calling for meat reduction. At the same time, Americans are being exposed to staggering statistics on the effects of traditional animal agriculture on our environment. Under Athos’ eye, Tofurky will remain committed to non-GMO standards, organic ingredients and domestic sourcing of soy products.
Dietary choice alone isn’t the holy grail for Athos, who is a vegan and animal welfare advocate. He’s recently completed building a LEED Platinum certified manufacturing facility in Hood River, Oregon – the third of its kind in the US. It embodies tenets Athos holds dearly, with 90% of all construction waste recycled or re-purposed, rain water harvesting, a green roof and hydro efficiencies 40% above Oregon building code standard. All wood used in the building is FCS certified and solar panels on the roof produce enough electricity to power 12 houses.
To round Tofurky’s ethical and environmental stewardship, Athos is pursuing Benefit Corp or B-Corp certification for Tofurky. In other words, using Tofurky’s position in the marketplace for social purpose, or simply “doing good.” This philosophy extends from the consumer all the way down to the supply chain to individual farmers.
“There’s so much opportunity to take plant-based lifestyles beyond natural products markets and into mainstream environments. I’m awed and inspired by the response to our vision and the opportunity that awaits us on a global level.” Athos says.
Seth Tibbott, now founder and chairman, echoes Athos’ sentiment and has no doubt that Tofurky will rise to meet the new challenges set forth. He’s thrilled to see Tofurky’s counter culture legacy thrive and prosper under Athos’ contemporary vision.
Athos will be representing Tofurky this week at Natural Products Expo West. In collaboration with his team, you’ll find him launching an exciting new Chick’n product line, dressed in a refreshed brand.
Have a question for the CEO? Drop him a line in the comments below; you might just grab a very thoughtful response.