1. Chains Add Vegan Options
This year, mainstream restaurant chains across the country hopped on the vegan bandwagon, making it easier than ever to dine cruelty-free. Just a few months after adding vegan Bistro Box meals to its line of café foods, Starbucks announced that it had acquired juice company Evolution Fresh, with plans to open retail locations focused on juice and health food in 2012. More than 100 7-Eleven stores began carrying new vegan meals such as Pad Thai and Linguine Tikka Masala after a test run in New York received rave reviews. And in October, Subway reached out to its vegan customers for feedback on its veg menu options before adding a vegan patty to its menu at several Canadian outlets of the more than 34,000-location chain.
2. Celebrities Go Vegan
Whether moved by a compelling documentary or inspired by a groundbreaking book, it was a banner year for ditching meat and dairy among the famous and infamous. Celebrities who abandoned their omnivorous ways in 2011 included country music darling Carrie Underwood, Lost actor Jorge Garcia, actress Eliza Dushku, godfather of heavy metal Ozzy Osbourne, and actor-comedian Russell Brand. Former President Bill Clinton opted for a plant-based diet to cure his ailing heart, while Oprah brought veganism to daytime television by spending a week as a vegan with nearly 400 of her employees. And just last month, vegan power couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi announced plans to open a new vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.
3. Shark Finning Banned
2011 marks a year chockfull of added protections for sharks, who are often thrown back into the ocean, still alive, after their fins have been cut off for human use. Taiwan made history as the first Asian nation to ban shark finning, following the Pacific island of Guam. On the homefront, President Obama signed a law to toughen an 11-year-old ban on the practice in January. California, Washington, and Oregon all approved legislation to end the sale, trade, and possession of fins, most to take effect in 2012 and 2013. Finally, The Food Network joined the upsurge to protect sharks—it agreed to discontinue the use of shark fin as an ingredient in its recipes after tens of thousands of viewers signed an online petition.
4. Food Trucks Take Off
Vegan chefs have hit the road across the US in what can only be described as a food truck explosion. Hit television series The Great Food Truck Race helped vegan contestant Seabirds Truck claim national fame for its meals on wheels. New Jersey’s The Cinnamon Snail expanded service of its organic vegan doughnuts and raw pizza into New York City in December. Other vegan food trucks that opened this year include macaroni-and-cheese specialist Mac’n Food Truck in Miami, Loving Hut Express in Vancouver, Dallas-based Jackalope Mobile Kitchen, and Denver’s Vegan Van, among dozens of others.
5. Nonprofits Strengthen
Animal organizations made huge strides in bettering the lives of all creatures this year. Mercy For Animals, VegNews’ 2011 Nonprofit of the Year, influenced major businesses like Target, McDonald’s, Costco, Kroger, and Safeway to drop cruel suppliers after releasing footage depicting inhumane treatment of hens and pigs at suppliers’ farms. Farm Sanctuary celebrated 25 years with cross-country anniversary events and hosted the first-ever National Conference to End Factory Farming in October. DC-based Compassion Over Killing made strides by uncovering a $9.5 billion price-fixing scheme in the dairy industry, expanding its VegWeek campaign, and working with meat-alternative producer Quorn to develop its first vegan product.
6. Vegan Cookbooks Explode
For culinary amateurs and seasoned chefs alike, 2011 brought more vegan cookbooks to bookstore shelves than ever before. The much anticipated release of The Candle 79 Cookbook had many drooling over recipes like Saffron Ravioli, Ginger-Seitan Dumplings, and Mexican Chocolate Cake. VegNews celebrated the release of Spork-Fed, the first book from LA-based sisters Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg, with a glamorous evening bash in San Francisco. Robin Robertson’s Quick-Fix Vegan taught us how to make appetizing vegan meals in less than 30 minutes, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Pie in the Sky gives delicious details on overhauling the all-American classic dessert. And with The Healthy Voyager’s Global Kitchen set for publication on January 1, we know 2012 will no doubt rival this year’s cookbook trend.
7. Dairy Substitutions on the Rise
In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that the alternative-milk industry, fueled by almond milk from Silk and Blue Diamond Growers, grew by 13 percent in 2010. Today, shoppers can find grocery-store shelves packed with milk substitutes ranging from hemp and cashew to coconut and oat. Clearly, the dairy industry has taken notice that competition is on the rise—Got Milk?’s current ad campaign challenges viewers to “find the real milk” while criticizing non-dairy milk alternatives. This year also brought more options such as coconut milk nog, almond-based yogurt, macadamia–based cheese, and cashew-milk ice cream.
8. School Lunches Revamped
With the demise of the food pyramid in favor of the new MyPlate nutrition campaign, school lunches across the US received a makeover this year, and the benefits are being felt across the country. Students at South Carolina’s Greenville County schools were in for a treat after their district teamed up with a local culinary institute to train cafeteria workers on the preparation of vegetarian and raw lunches. In Salt Lake City, the Granite School District adopted Meatless Mondays for a month-long trial run in October, with the possibility of continuing the program in 2012. Even colleges have caught on—the University of North Texas in Denton revamped one cafeteria into a completely vegan dining hall just in time for the fall 2011 semester.
9. Mainstream Media Goes Veg
While Oprah’s vegan week brought the cruelty-free lifestyle to daytime TV, she wasn’t the only small-screen star to broach the subject. Martha Stewart devoted an episode of her show to veganism in March with guests Biz Stone and Kathy Freston, while CNN aired an hour-long special on Clinton’s journey to a plant-based diet. In print and web media, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and National Public Radio all published vegan-related stories this year. And for the holidays, VegNews was just one of many places to turn to for vegan recipes—mainstream publications like Sunset, The New York Times, Shape, The Wall Street Journal, Women’s Health, Whole Living, Bon Appetit, and Every Day with Rachael Ray all published seasonal veg-friendly recipes. In short, veganism has never received so much ink and airtime in one year.
10. Vegan Films Hit Silver Screen
2011 was a remarkable time for vegan films hitting big screens across the country. VN’s Movie of the Year, Forks Over Knives, impressed audiences at sold-out screenings nationwide with its scientific evidence and inspiring stories, influencing many to jump on the vegan bandwagon. With Vegucated’s compelling storyline of three meat-and-cheese-loving New Yorkers experimenting with veganism for six weeks, it’s no wonder it took home myriad awards during its cross-country film festival tour. Planteat documented the lives of three men as they searched for a diet that improves the health of people and the planet, while Got The Facts on Milk? gave the inside scoop on what’s really behind the frothy white stuff. These eye-opening films captured the attention of film critics and continue to influence viewers—heck, even Ozzy Osbourne changed his diet after watching Forks Over Knives.
Here’s to a groundbreaking 2011, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2012. Happy holidays from everyone at VegNews!