Four years ago, The Tofoo Co was a small company of just eight employees, but now boasts a workforce of 75. It’s now the second most popular meat-free alternative on the market, too, according to Nielsen data and is rapidly building an engaged social media following of over 30k across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
It’s easy to see why – The quirky, unique branding, the commitment to sustainability and the company’s drive to make Tofu accessible for everyone has catapulted them into the mainstream food market, so when we spoke to Director David Knibbs, we knew we were in for a treat.
Q. David, thank you so much for chatting with us. First, can you tell us a bit about you, your story and how you ended up at The Tofoo Co?
A. My wife and I have worked in the food industry for the last 30 years, and in the end, we just got sick of working for other people. We wanted something small and scalable and that’s when we came across this business. The big idea was that nobody really loved tofu – so we developed a product that showed a real love for Tofu whilst highlighting how diverse it can be. We thought that the meat-free market really lacked personality! It all just seemed a bit functional. People didn’t seem to know what tofu was and I think, even today, people are still learning about it. From that our brand essence evolved into “wonderfully unexpected” because a lot of people don’t realise just how tasty and versatile Tofu can be.
Q. Do you think you’ve made tofu cool?
A. Ha! We’ve certainly made it cooler. Tofoo is now the second best seller in the meat-free industry according to Neilsen Data. We’ve been really successful in bringing in a new audience too – especially younger people. I think people used to think that tofu was “just for hippies” but that’s certainly not the case anymore – we believe that Tofoo is for all.
Q. What about your brand voice? Do you think that’s helped you transform the way people view tofu?
A. Absolutely, The great thing about smaller brands like The Tofoo Co is that social media platforms are a really cost-effective medium for us. We’ve done a lot of collaborations in we make some great videos, too. So far the response has been absolutely amazing! It’s such a powerful way to grow your brand and get your message out there!
Q. How do think attitudes to meat-free products are changing?
A. For us, the recent shift away from meat isn’t just a fad, it’s a long term trend no doubt. It seems so many people have a very different approach to food now – meat really doesn’t have to be the centre of the plate anymore. Younger people are much more well-travelled nowadays and their eyes are really opening to alternatives to meat, especially as they see environmental impacts first hand. We’re not actually a vegan company but all of our products are free from animal products. Sustainability is really important to us, too – look at our ‘bean to block’ story on our website, for example (you can find it here – https://tofoo.co.uk/bean-to-block-story). Soy isn’t always sustainable and we’re extremely careful with how we source it.
Q. What’s your company mission? Your ‘Why’?
A. Great question. Our mission was, and still is, to build a meaningful business. Our company is based on our core values. They’re how we run the company and how we recruit, too. They are quality before quantity, (we aren’t the biggest but we’re determined to be the best), ‘Make It Happen’, (our people can really make a difference and we empower them to do so at The Tofoo Co), mutuality (shared benefits, because we want people to bring their whole self to work – they’re amazing people and we don’t want to just put them into boxes), a solid foundation (we want to put the right structures in place in order to maximise future success) and independence, as we want to make things happen and be our own bosses.
Q. How do you get these across when you’re recruiting?
A. Whenever we interview, we interview with purpose to really make sure we get the right people. There’s a great job out there for everyone – but it’s important to remember that a particular work environment for one person may not be the right one for someone else. It’s really important to start with the right values and to have a clear mission. Here at The Tofoo Co, we think that’s the real key to success.
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