Transition time

| Print |  Email
Articles - September 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012

 

0912 TransitionTime 03
Above: Tofurky deli slices contain no MSG or nitrates.
Below: Tempeh is made with whole soybeans.
//Photos by Sierra Breshears
0912 TransitionTime 04

Athos joined the company full time in 2005, though he collected his first paycheck from Turtle Island in 1992 while working summers during his undergrad study of fish biology at the University of Washington. He stayed at the University for his Ph.D. in the neurobiology and behavior fields, focusing mainly on learning and memory. Athos worked for about a year as a postdoctoral scientist at the school before taking a position with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he served as a visiting scientist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center for more than a year. It may not read like the typical resume of a food company’s executive vice president, but atypical is the norm for Tofurky.

Tibbott graduated from Wittenberg University in Ohio in 1974. He studied education and worked in outdoor education before turning to the tempeh business. When he started the company, he was the only employee, and he would hand-deliver samples to grocers. Now, at 61, he welcomes the change and the help Athos brings.

“I think Jaime’s skill set is perfect for where the company is now,” Tibbott says. The business is looking to commission its first production line in a new 33,000-square-foot facility in January 2013. The new building will seek LEED platinum certification, and it’s just a stone’s throw from the current operation on the Hood River waterfront. The expansion means more employees, and Athos sees a need for more internal infrastructure. That’s one place his systemic, analytical background may serve the company well.

Athos knows that the new building and additional employees are premised on the belief that their output and profits will grow. He has been working to build management structure and to put leaders in positions to help, not only with the expansion but also with the transition at the top of the company. “Having a good team — a good, solid team under me — that has definitely been one of the things I’ve worked on,” Athos says.

Product development has been a strength for Turtle Island since its inception. Tibbott has relied on creativity and a nose for the holes in the market. “Tofurky was really the stroke that changed the course for us,” Tibbott says. “I think new products are as much art as they are science.” Both men are consumers of their own products and of their competitors’ foods. Tibbott trusted his preference for the taste and texture of tempeh over tofu more than 30 years ago, and he continues to rely on his intuition today as they innovate products like their deli slices, sausages and frozen pizzas. He is sensitive to spicy foods, so they’ve steered clear of anything with too much kick, even in their pizza line. “Not only do I not like spicy things, but the data backs me up there,” Tibbott says. It’s just one example of his tastes and opinions matching that of his consumers.

Athos regularly brings home samples of potential new products for his wife, Rachel, and their two young sons, Max and James, but his scientific education lends itself to a different way of looking at Tofurky’s product development. Athos gets excited talking about the heat given off during the soy- fermentation process, and according to Tibbott, Athos has a gift for understanding numbers, systems and the biology and chemistry of their business, such as the science of gluten. It’s these talents, rather than decades of honed instinct, that will shape the way the company manufactures new products in the coming years.

“I’m probably even more aggressive about innovating new products,” Athos says, but he also understands that when it comes to food, science has its limits. “Anything with a sensory experience is subjective,” he adds.

 



 

More Articles

Game On

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The big news at Oregon Business is we’re getting a ping pong table. After reading the descriptions of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, a disproportionate number of which feature table tennis in the office, I decided it was time to bring our own workplace into the 21st century. It was a tough call, but it’s lonely at the top, and someone has to make the hard decisions.


Read more...

4 highlights of the MLS labor deal

The Latest
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
timbersthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

On Wednesday night, a couple days ahead of the 2015 season kickoff, Major League Soccer and the Players Union reached an agreement.


Read more...

How Oregon will survive the loss of Hanjin

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT | OB CONTRIBUTOR

"Shipping containers to Portland is like waiting for a bus that travels once a day."


Read more...

Transportation Fairness Alliance holds demonstration in Pioneer Square

The Latest
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
IMG 3367BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland's cab companies urged city hall for consideration as officials weigh new rules for Uber and other ridesharing companies.


Read more...

7 industry trends of 2015

The Latest
Friday, January 09, 2015
covertrends15-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Industry groups identify top trends for 2015.


Read more...

Closing the Gap: The two Oregons and the way forward

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

"Nostalgia is not an economic strategy."


Read more...

2015 100 Best companies announced

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 0022cneditBY OB STAFF

The 100 Best list recognizes large, medium and small companies for excellence in work environment, management and communications, decision-making and trust, career development and learning, and benefits and compensation.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS