Erin Ransom is a brand growth and product innovation strategist. At Tofurky, a plant-based protein company, she is responsible for global and multi-channel leadership aimed at high-valued CPG impact.
Specialty Food News spoke with Ransom about her upcoming session at the Winter Fancy Food Show and recent legislation around plant-based labeling. Ransom will speak on a panel titled, Expanding Your Plant-Based Options in Retail, taking place on the Main Stage at the Moscone Center on Monday, January 20 at 1:30 p.m.
Can you explain Tofurky’s recent win against the state of Arkansas, which had ruled that plant-based companies weren’t allowed to use certain words to describe their product?
Tofurky won an injunction to prevent a law from being upheld in the state of Arkansas that wouldn’t allow for the use of terms like “burger” or “sausage” on package labels. We must still prevail in a trial that prevents this law from being enforceable. While it’s possible that additional state-level laws may be proposed, I believe that we’re setting the precedent for what constitutes fair evaluation practices in an important state like Arkansas. Should we prevail there, we believe this will indicate how plant-based product labelling will be governed at the federal level.
What does the future hold for Tofurky?
We see Tofurky as an engine for global change, to impact something much larger than the food ecosystem. We see our brand as a way to put social purpose on display; encouraging the business community around us to “do good.” In the near term, we’re investing in everything from language immersion programs for our staff to more sophisticated production equipment to increasing our capacity. Our corporate effort will be represented in product innovation, where you’ll see some really exciting new items from Tofurky in 2020.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the last few years and how did you overcome it?
Product shortages. We’ve been challenged to meet demand for the skyrocketing growth in our space. We can really peel the remedy back to two simple ingredients: communication and money. We took our first outside investment in 40 years in 2019 to purchase new equipment and expand our facilities rapidly. Before we invested the money, we spent days at a strategic offsite identifying our opportunities and constraints amongst the executive team to ensure the application of funds would solve our largest challenges in concert.
Where do you see the food industry heading in the next 10 years?
I see natural products becoming the expectation of the mainstream consumer, pushing our supply chain partners to grow and transport food in large-scale ways that are healthier for our planet. I also see that this new natural product norm will be customized for the consumer. They may not only shop for their groceries online, they may also be offered the ability to purchase food in unique assortments that meet their seasonal or life-stage profile needs so that that their nutrition is optimized.
What’s the one thing you want people to take away from your session? I’d like people to know that getting good food into the hands of the right consumer is a multi-faceted strategy that requires curiosity, tenacity, money, and vision from great partners all the way from supply chain to merchandising.