- Plant-based food pioneer Tofurky and its sister brand Moocho have been acquired for an undisclosed amount by Morinaga Nutritional Foods, which is the U.S.-based manufacturer of Mori-Nu Silken Tofu. Morinaga now owns the No. 3 retail brand of plant-based meats in the United States, according to a statement on the acquisition.
- Morinaga has been a tofu supplier to Tofurky for 17 years. This acquisition will strengthen the integrated supply chain for both brands, as well as help them grow in their categories, a release said.
- Tofurky, named after the signature round Thanksgiving roast that first appeared on tables in 1995, was a family-owned company that blazed several trails in the plant-based sector. The company is run by Jaime Athos, stepson of founder Seth Tibbott.
In the United States, Tofurky has been synonymous with plant-based meat.
While the company wasn’t the first to make plant-based meat substitutes available to a wide swath of consumers, its Plant-Based Roast attracted a lot of attention and interest. That intrigue, coupled with a brand message that brought lightheartedness and humor to making plant-based meal choices, helped the company grow.
Tofurky has recently been a leader in the not-so-lighthearted side of plant-based foods, with the company serving as lead plaintiff in pending lawsuits about plant-based meat labeling in Oklahoma, Missouri and an appealed case in Louisiana. Last year, the company saw a legal victory with its case in Arkansas, in which a judge ruled the state law prohibiting plant-based meat companies from using meat terminology on their labels and marketing was unconstitutional.
In the last few years, Tofurky has seen the most product growth and diversification in its history. Moocho officially launched in early 2020, featuring dairy-free cheese and cheesecakes. Tofurky has also broken into new areas of plant-based meat, including sandwich slices and burgers.
According to disclosure documents filed by Morinaga Nutritional Foods’ parent company Morinaga Milk, Tofurky’s net sales in the fiscal year ending in December 2021 were nearly $42.4 million.
Morinaga Nutritional Foods is relatively unknown in the United States. The company is a subsidiary of Morinaga Milk, a Japanese company traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange that does business in dairy, beverages and infant formula in Asia. In the U.S., Morinaga’s only product lines are in the tofu, soy and probiotics sectors.
It makes sense for Tofurky to join forces with a large global company that can give it leverage into other markets. In a statement about the acquisition, Athos said that Tofurky over time has realized that they have multiple synergies with Morinaga in areas ranging from supply chain to product development targets.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved thus far as an independent and family-operated company, but as we enter our next stage of growth, Morinaga will provide the platform needed to help us expand more aggressively in the U.S. and beyond,” Athos said in the statement.
A relationship with Tofurky can also help Morinaga Nutritional Foods expand further into the US. The disclosure document about the acquisition says Morinaga sees “huge potential” in the plant-based foods sector in the United States.
A spokesperson told Food Dive Morinaga is keeping Tofurky’s leadership team in place, and will be bolstering what’s in place already with its resources, knowledge and experience.
In 2020, Athos told Food Dive that through the years, there has been a lot of interest in Tofurky as an M&A target, and they always took a hard look at the offers.
“That’s still a question that we ask ourselves: Could somebody else do more with this brand than we could?” he said. “If the answer to that is yes, then we should probably say yes to those offers.”