My husband, daughter and I are vegan, but thankfully we look forward to this day, Thanksgiving, just like every other red-blooded American. How can vegans and vegetarians be as thankful as omnivores on this festive day? In addition to a plethora of vegan recipes for staples such as pumpkin pie, stuffing and gravy, there is also a product called Tofurkey. Marinated in a special blend of seasoned olive oil and cooked surrounded by carrots and potatoes, Tofurky is something my family looks forward to every year during this holiday season.
Last year there were over 300,000 Tofurky loaves purchased. That’s great, but I ask myself every year when we make our annual trek to the supermarket, “What does the name mean?” Is it a play on faux turkey? Is it simply tofu and turkey combined? If so, why did they remove the “e” before the “y”? I didn’t find answers to these important questions, but I did learn a little more about the name.
In addition to the texture and flavor of Tofurky, the company credits the quirky name for its amazing success. It’s the age-old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press. Tofurky’s CEO, Seth Tibbott says it this way, “The funny name worked to our advantage. Humor worked instantly with this product.” For Tofurky this all began in 1999 when people like Ellen, Conan, and Leno began using Tofurky as the brunt of their jokes. With over 7 million vegetarians in the United States and nearly 400 million vegetarians worldwide, there really needed to be some way the omnivores could poke fun at us. Tofurky seemed to provide that perfect opportunity.
Then in 2001 something amazing happened. Tofurky was featured as an answer to a Jeopardy! gameshow question. You know you’ve made it when your product appears on Jeopardy! The company estimates that by 2007 the Tofurky brand received millions of dollars in free publicity because of its name. Not a bad strategy!
How can a tofu-based turkey alternative be so successful? Seth Tibbott says, “I think it comes down to a combination of a great product and a funny, catchy name!”
Whatever the name, I’m thankful for Tofurky today. I’m also thankful for time with my family. And I’m thankful for each of you and hoping that you’re having a wonderful Thanksgiving Day as well!