In 1980, a young teacher and naturalist started selling his homemade tempeh to local health food stores in Oregon. Fifteen years later, he created his first Tofurky roast, a meat-free holiday centerpiece that jump-started the brand.
Plant-based burgers, hot dogs and deli cuts used to be something of a fringe idea. Today, it’s more like a foregone conclusion. Tofurky now plays in a soaring $1.5 billion global market, complete with aggressive competition and ambitious, tech-driven entrepreneurs.
It’s one thing to find indie success among the bulk bins of a crunchy co-op. It’s something else entirely to stay competitive in the breakneck world of plant-based protein circa 2015 (when Thread and Tofurky first connected).
Behind Tofurky’s brand are some very deep convictions. They use the power of their company to further meaningful causes: animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability. But to achieve real change, they needed to grow the company while fending off competition that was heating up for their once-niche industry. Preaching to the choir could only get them so far. It was time to build a bigger tent.
An industry-relevant brand is one that can hold its own not just with the natural food set, but on shelves at mainstream grocers like Target or Walmart. So how does a food brand that’s synonymous with veganism appeal to flexitarians and even diehard carnivores? That’s where Thread comes in.
Tofurky had always spoken to its established tribe in their native tongue: Plant-based eating is the most ethical and health-conscious choice. But the eaters Tofurky needed to persuade now spoke a completely different language. When it comes to food choices, most people know they should listen to reason. But taste buds don’t listen to reason; they listen to nachos.
So Thread changed the narrative. Tofurky would no longer be the food you know you should eat. It would be the food you really want to eat: the kind of mouth-watering, midnight-craving food that calls for second helpings and extra napkins. The kind of food Guy Fieri would take a detour for.
Tofurky’s new internal mantra: Tasty to the rescue.
First off, Thread created a brand guide to make sure everyone communicating on behalf of the brand was pointed toward the same North Star. At the heart of the guide was a new tagline: The friendliest food on the plate.
Why “friendly”? Because it helped the brand move from earnest activist to barbecue-loving next-door neighbor. The new Tofurky is taste bud-friendly, recipe-friendly, backyard BBQ-friendly, animal-friendly and environment-friendly.
The guide includes Tofurky’s brand narrative, mission/vision, brand values and voice guidelines. With this road map in hand, Thread went to work creating new website content and packaging copy, as well as brand statements, headlines and copy for special projects.
As the plant-based category continues to grow and evolve, the brand does, too — but their core narrative of friendliness and inclusivity remains the same. By showing up consistently as the same brand across every touchpoint, Tofurky builds a connection with customers that allows trust to flourish.
Now selling millions of units annually across the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia, Tofurky continues to grow confidently, launching new products and sister brands and stepping into new forms of activism. Since 2018, Tofurky’s earned media presence has grown an average 200% annually, and their top-line sales have increased 22%.
Annual growth in earned media
Top-line sales growth
“Over the last six years our partnership with Thread has empowered us to show up as industry leaders, with less trepidation toward activism or making a public mistake. Thread has armed us with the ability to exhibit our un-perfect selves to an overly corporate CPG market.”
Illustrations by Bureau of Betterment and Kate Sutton.