Tofurky partners with Triton Algae to bring its ingredients to plant-based meat

Dive Brief:

  • Tofurky is partnering with Triton Algae Innovations to bring algae-based meat analog products to market. Products from the partnership are expected to come to retail stores in the first quarter of 2022 and be co-branded.
  • Triton’s Essential Red algae, which is said to be rich in protein, vitamin A and iron, will be a key component in new product formulations, according to a written statement from the brands. The companies said they believe tasty, sustainable plant-based foods can be fostered by new kinds of protein, including non-GMO microalgae. 
  • Algae has been named an up-and-coming ingredient for its sustainable origin and nutritional profile. While big food manufacturers have announced broad partnerships with algae ingredient suppliers, this is the first targeted product announcement in the plant-based space.

Dive Insight:

In the last few years, algae has emerged as an ingredient that can meet the needs of manufacturers and consumers: It can be naturally produced anywhere and in abundance, and can have a low carbon footprint and high nutritional profile. And while there are two high-profile Big Food partnerships with algae ingredients companies — Unilever said last year it was working with Algenuity in its food and refreshment division and Nestlé announced in 2019 it was joining with Corbion to develop next-generation algae ingredients — this is the first time a specific product announcement involving algae has been made.

Tofurky leadership says the company is ready to make use of the ingredient.

“This is a unique and timely opportunity for us to combine our knowledge and understanding of the plant-based market with the nutrition and one-of-a-kind natural supply-chain technology created by Triton’s algae,” Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Tofurky, said in a written statement. “While we can’t share what it is just yet, the result will entail products that resonate with our core audience, and also be attractive to the rapidly growing segment of new flexitarians increasingly drawn to plant-based foods.”

Triton has been gearing up for this kind of launch all year. The company, which was founded in 2013 as a spinoff from University of California San Diego, told Food Navigator in March that it was working to develop a B2B business platform, but was also eyeing a launch of plant-based tuna using its ingredients.

It’s unclear if the products from this collaboration will be plant-based seafood or something else. Seafood analogs are one of the few areas where Tofurky currently has no products — it has its Plant-Based Roasts, chicken, burgers, deli meat, hot dogs and sausages, and cheeses through its Moocho line. Triton indicates on its website that its Essential Red ingredient was designed for use in plant-based meat as a way to increase nutritional benefit.

But regardless of the product in which the ingredient is launched, consumer appetite for plant-based food has only grown. According to statistics from SPINS commissioned by the Plant Based Foods Association and Good Food Institute, plant-based meat sales grew 45% last year. And a report recently issued by the Good Food Institute highlights the near limitless growth opportunities for seafood alternatives.

If any plant-based company can succeed by putting an unconventional ingredient in the spotlight, it’s Tofurky. The company, which got its start in the 1990s as the maker of its namesake round Plant-Based Roast, has branched out into many areas of plant-based food. It has become a market force to be reckoned with — but is still unapologetically a company that is quirky and fun. In an interview last year, Athos said Tofurky always looks for industry white spaces. Products that spotlight algae ingredients certainly fit into that box. And if consumers are hesitant to try an item featuring algae, Tofurky’s personable brand identity can do some convincing.