Seth Tibbott wants to bring mock meat to the masses.
When Seth Tibbott stopped eating meat, back in 1974, Thanksgiving became one of the bleakest dates on his calendar-an entire day devoted to a sumptuous roasted bird that he couldn't touch. "It was like, 'Here's your salad and baked potato-be happy,'" recalls Tibbott, sitting in his office at Turtle Island Foods, his Hood River, Oregon, company. "But everyone else, they're having turkey, eating stuffing, having fun. We tried to make things like stuffed pumpkin instead, but it took all day and was never very good."From this frustration, a meatless icon was born: the Tofurky, a softball-sized mound of flora and spices that boasts a surprisingly turkey-like taste and texture. Tibbott discovered that if he blended puréed tofu with wheat gluten, and threw in a few secret ingredients, the resulting creation possessed many of the same qualities as meat. When he first started selling the nonbirds, in 1995, he was met with raised eyebrows-from vegetarians and carnivores alike. After all, if you didn't want to eat flesh, why would you crave a flesh facsimile? But doubt eventually gave way to necessity-the Tofurky granted vegetarians a reprieve from their Thanksgiving Day purgatory, and, surprisingly, it tasted good. Sales climbed. In 2006, Tibbott's company-formerly a minuscule purveyor of soy products-sold its one-millionth Tofurky roast, and more than 250,000 now ship out each year.Today, Turtle Island Foods is the fastest-growing meat-alternative brand in the nation, with a entire roster of fake meat products. "The whole thing that we try to do is bring vegetarians to the table on separate but equal footing with meat-eaters," explains Tibbott, 56, as he leads a tour of his plant. Throughout the facility, Tibbott's 54 employees pack up stout "Italian sausages" and "Bratwurst," peppered Jurky, and even foot-long veggie franks. Tibbott's rallying cry? "If they have it for meat-eaters, they should have it for veggies." And the veggies have been grateful: Turtle Island has nearly tripled its sales over the last four years.\n\n\n
|It's a huge step going from a meat-centered diet to 'Here's your cake of tofu.'|