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    A turkey shortage abounds; will Americans gobble up Tofurkys this Thanksgiving?

    Turkey dinner may not be on the menu this Thanksgiving due to a nationwide bird shortage. Take a gander at how Tofurky, Beyond Meat and others plan to address the shortage and gobble up the possible market opportunity.

    A turkey shortage may impact what’s on the table this holiday season. Grocers and delis alike are running out of the meat, driving the price of poultry even higher amid inflation.

    Nearly six million turkeys were depopulated between January and July after being exposed to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), according to The U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The turkey shortage creates an opportunity for the $7.5 billion-and-growing, plant-based meat sector. “What we’re talking about is how a brand can exploit an issue within another sector in a way that doesn’t suck or come off as sleazy or opportunistic,” says Andrew Graham, founder and head of strategy at Bread & Law. “Resilient brands figure out how to meet consumers where they are, not where the brand would like them to be.” He suggests turkey alternatives attack the space in a lighthearted way “because this isn’t an actual crisis.”

    Enter Tofurky, The quintessential plant-based turkey replacement is the original Tofurky Roast, introduced in 1995. Every year, the brand manufactures upwards of 600,000 roasts in preparation for the holidays. “Tofurky Roasts are an easy way to introduce plant-based alternatives to your families’ tables, and with this year’s Turkey shortage, more curious carnivores or plant-based eaters may create a new tradition with Tofurky,” says Tofurky’s chief executive Jaime Athos. “Tofurky?gives?all consumers the opportunity to indulge in their favorite foods while making a positive impact on people,?animals?and the planet. We’re getting closer every year to our goal for plant-based holiday roasts, like ours, to grace all holiday tables.”

    By the end of this holiday season, Tofurky expects the number of roasts ever sold to exceed 7 million. “We’re expecting 2022 to be another booming sales season for our beloved Holiday Roasts,” Athos says, adding that a plant-based Ham Roast with an amber ale glaze is also available. “The popularity of this quintessential holiday offering combined with the surge in plant-based, climate conscious, and flexitarian eaters has resulted in solid growth year on year.”

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    Beyond turkeys (and meat)

    Another plant-based meat brand aiming to entice meat eaters is Beyond Meat, whose products are currently available in some 183,000 retailers worldwide. “While we’ve had success with vegans, vegetarians and early adopters, our next stage of growth is to achieve mainstream adoption of plant-based with meat lovers and flexitarians alike,” a Beyond Meat spokesperson tells The Drum. “Our products are widely available and accessible … so if turkeys won’t be easy to find this Thanksgiving, there are a variety of other options that are readily available.”

    While Beyond Meat doesn’t currently have plans to release a plant-based turkey, the brand offers other veganized holiday staples, including Beyond Beef and Beyond Meatballs. “Beyond Beef can be added to tons of holiday dishes that need a little extra protein, or served as part of the main course, like Beyond Beef tamales.”

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    Butterball says keep calm and carry on (eating turkey)

    Still, those unwilling to compromise for a plant-based option will be able to track down a turkey this year, according to Butterball, the country’s leading brand for Thanksgiving turkeys. “The limited cases of HPAI that we have experienced in our contract farms have not led to supply disruptions and there are no measurable impacts on Butterball Thanksgiving turkeys,” says Christa Leupen, a Butterball spokesperson. “For Butterball, availability will look largely the same as last year and we anticipate having a wide range of sizes available for both fresh and frozen whole turkeys.”

    Instead, the 2022 Butterball Thanksgiving Outlook – a survey conducted in July that had 1,005 respondents – found that people are less concerned about Covid this year, and therefore, more excited about celebrating Thanksgiving. Nearly 90% of Americans plan to celebrate this year, and among those celebrating, 85% of hosts plan to serve turkey. However, just under half of those celebrating cite inflation as their top concern; with rising grocery prices (87%) and gas prices (75%) being top of mind. 

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