It’s time to celebrate—the 2012 Veggie Awards are here! Months of planning, research, trend-spotting, interviews, and of course, a full month of reader voting—totaling more than 1 million votes—have culminated in the following list of this year’s brightest stars. Enjoy!
Favorite Veg-Friendly City
GOLD New York City
BRONZE San Francisco
GOLD Veganize It! (Allison Rivers Samson)
SILVER Dairy-Free Desserts (Beverly Lynn Bennett)
BRONZE Plant-Based Dietitian (Julieanna Hever)
Person of the Year: The Vegan Athlete
For as long as man has been upright, man has played sports. That’s why, this year, instead of giving Person of the Year to one specific change-maker, we have chosen to honor The Vegan Athlete, who burst onto the scene in 2012—winning races, writing books, beating competitors, and, perhaps most importantly, changing mainstream minds. Take the women’s World’s Toughest Mudder, vegan Juliana Sproles, athlete-author hybrids Rip Esselstyn (The Engine 2 Diet), Rich Roll (Finding Ultra), and Scott Jurek (Eat & Run), and professional racecar driver and Genius Award winner Leilani Münter just to name a few. We’re confident the successes of these—and many other—vegan and plant-based athletes will convince fans to adopt a compassionate, cruelty-free diet, and change history in the process.
Restaurant of the Year: Vedge
When Philadelphia magazine proclaims a veg establishment “it might be one of the best restaurants in America” eyebrows rise. As they should. Just one year after opening, the City of Brotherly Love’s vegan restaurant Vedge has put itself on the map as a destination dining experience worth traveling to. The chic, modern downtown Philadelphia eatery is the third restaurant of Rich Landau (chef) and Kate Jacoby (sommelier/pastry chef), the husband/wife team behind first Horizon’s Café and then Horizons, which took home VegNews’ Restaurant of the Year in 2006. How is the food? “With a dizzying array of fresh ingredients and flavor combinations, Vedge deftly makes the case for the diversity, completeness, and deliciousness of vegan cuisine,” states Philly.com columnist Vance Lehmkuhl.
Product of the Year: Victoria Vegan Sauces
Victoria Vegan sauces are the best things we’ve put in our mouths all year. Our staff completely lost its cool when we first tasted the vodka sauce—a perfectly rich blend of tomatoes, vodka, and spices that sumptuously replaces a usually dairy-laden sauce. What makes Victoria Vegan stand apart is that it is a family sauce—the Aquilina family—who have owned and operated Victoria Fine Foods since 1929. After finding that everyone in the family had some sort of food restriction or sensitivity, the Aquilinas researched the benefits of plant-based eating, and decided to launch a line that suited everyone’s needs. Five marinaras and four cashew-based Alfredos round out this stellar line. Customers clamor most for the vodka sauce, followed closely by the White Bean Marinara and Mushroom Marinara.
Company of the Year: Vega
Our 2012 Company of the Year may not have revolutionized vegan cheese, faux meat, or chocolate chip cookie dough. What this company has done, however—in just eight short years—is totally transform a multi-million-dollar industry made up of athletes, weekend warriors, and nutrition-savvy consumers. Back in 2004, when entrepreneur Charles Chang and triathlete Brendan Brazier were formulating a plant-based commercial protein shake, industry experts said it couldn’t be done. Fast forward to 2012. Vega is now a $48 million company with an annual growth rate of 80 percent—and athletes around the world are hopping on the bandwagon and praising a plant-based diet for better performance, recovery, and overall health. Bravo, Vega.
Nonprofit of the Year: The Humane Society of the United States
McDonald’s. Safeway. Costco. These are among the food industry giants that have vowed to remove gestation crates from their production lines this year. And the team behind these incredible advances—the Farm Animal Protection Campaign at the Humane Society of the United States—is an unstoppable machine. HSUS, which boasts 11 million supporters and a high rating from Charity Navigator, even got a shout-out on The Colbert Report. The group has worked to protect animals from the horrors of puppy mills, horse soring, and hound hunts, among countless other programs. It also launched H-Couture, an A-list event celebrating cruelty-free fashion, featuring designers such as John Bartlett and Charlotte Ronson. This nonprofit is a force for progress, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Book of the Year: The Lucky Ones
If Jenny Brown’s life story doesn’t amaze you—she’s a bone cancer survivor and former McDonald’s cashier who co-founded Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in 2004 with husband Doug Abel—then her companion cat, Boogie, who licked away her tears after Brown’s right leg had to be amputated at age 10, should. In The Lucky Ones, Brown and co-author Gretchen Primack detail how a young girl finally made the connection to the food on her plate and the animals she loved. After going undercover at the Texas stockyards and working at Farm Sanctuary, Brown was ready to open her own sanctuary. Tales of the animals that have come to Woodstock for refuge are central figures—Brown’s just sharing the stage with them. Boogie would be proud.
Cookbook of the Year: Chloe’s Kitchen
Since her big win as the first vegan baker on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, Chloe Coscarelli has been a one-woman tour-de-force with her debut cookbook in March, Chloe’s Kitchen. Whether baking Cinnamon-Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies on Today or making HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell her signature Avocado Pesto Pasta, Coscarelli wows vegans and non-vegans alike with her simple, delicious recipes. One chapter is called “Eat With Your Hands” and includes sandwiches, burgers, pizza, and more. Up next for the vegan chef superstar: Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, due out next March, for which Coscarelli spent many days eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (tough job!).
Rookie of the Year: Beyond Meat
Let’s be real: we like to believe the vegan meat we love tastes “just like the real thing”— those words might be the “Where do you get your protein?” of omnivores—but often, they just … don’t. That’s all about to change, because in March, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman discussed how he compared Beyond Meat to the real thing in a blind taste test, and actually chose the fake chicken. Add VN staffers who experienced jaw-dropping awe when trying it, and you have—not a game, but a world—changer. Early next year, the faux meat will be available in stores nationwide. Next up? Ground beef and many more minds blown.
Power of the Consumer
It was virtually impossible to pick up a paper or peruse a news website this year without reading two questionable phrases: “pink slime” and “cochineal extract.” The former rose into common usage after a campaign by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to raise awareness about the substance’s prevalence, leading McDonald’s to can the stuff in January. When news broke in March that Starbucks was using insect-based cochineal extract, it prompted veg and omnivorous consumers alike to demand a plant-based solution and the coffee giant switched to tomato-derived lycopene instead. And when Urban Decay temporarily lost its cruelty-free status by expanding to the Chinese market, fans convinced the company to abandon the plans and keep true to its long-held anti-cruelty stance.
Forks Over Knives, Part Deux!
What do Ozzy Osbourne, Kristen Bell, Eliza Dushku, and Russell Brand have in common? Announcing that they’d adopted plant-based diets after seeing the 2010 smash-hit documentary, Forks Over Knives. These four people have a combined Twitter following of nearly 10 million fans, making FOK’s popularity a regime change. The best part? It’s happening again. Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, released in August, was on the Amazon’s best-seller list a month before its debut and the New York Times best-seller list within weeks of coming out. FOK’s producers also partnered with The Engine 2 Diet team to produce Farms 2 Forks, an education series about the benefits of plant-based eating.
Food Porn Palooza: Pinterest
Exploding onto the social-networking scene with virtually unprecedented growth, Pinterest went from “huh?” to a household name. Millions of users joined to share their favorites recipes, products, and photos with a whole new aesthetic-centric audience. In the vegan community, Pinterest made it easier than ever to find drool-worthy dishes with a seal of approval from fellow plant-based pinners, and a quick eye-scan of a favorite board could yield a week’s worth of delectable meals. Whether seeking adorable baby animal photos, the greatest guacamole, or an enviable pair of leather-free kicks, vegans cozied up to Pinterest in no time, finding it to be a great tool for enriching our ever-broadening horizons.
Julieanna Hever is the human equivalent of a rocket launcher. Hever, whom VegNews is fortunate enough to call our nutrition columnist, is the total package. Late last year, Hever made an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, and this year gave a TEDx Conejo 2012 talk, and began a nationwide food-delivery service, Plant-Based Dietician’s Gourmet-To-Go, all while balancing two kids and her work with EarthSave as its executive director. Now she’s about to launch her first television series, the talk show What Would Julieanna Do?, which will focus on fashion, exercise, relationships, and vegan food, of course. We can’t wait to watch her skyrocket to stardom, bringing a compassionate message right along with her.
Green Juice: The New Kale
Remember in 2011 when kale suddenly appeared in news feeds, food blogs, and restaurant menus everywhere? This year, it’s served cold—in the form of green juice! Green juices are the official must-have accessory of 2012—an emerald elixir even made an appearance in The Dark Knight Rises. Juicing in total is now a $5 billion-business, according to Barron’s, a number that is expected to grow by at least four to eight percent this year. In November 2011, Starbucks acquired Evolution Fresh, a fresh-pressed juice company, and BluePrintJuice offers a green juice that outsells all four other flavors 2:1. Juice—and the kale that goes into it—is here to stay.
Though they may not be quite as pervasive as McDonald’s or Taco Bell (yet), vegan restaurant chains had an impressive year. Southern California-based Veggie Grill added new locations galore while its desert cousin Native Foods moved onward into Illinois and Colorado. On the East Coast, the Candle empire debuted Candle Café West on Broadway in New York City, while Blossom opened the doors of a new bakery plus a third location of Blossom Du Jour, bringing its total to eight restaurants. Loving Hut now boasts 43 locations just in the US, with more in 25 other countries. We can’t wait to see an America—or world—where vegan eateries are on every corner. Tally ho!
What do we plebes have in common with Ellen DeGeneres? A thriving love for Vegenaise. The debut of Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise Gourmet dipping sauces and spreads wowed the VN team, prompting us to honor the new flavors with a coveted Best of Show Award. Fast forward to the taste testing in our office. We slathered the roasted garlic on veggie bánh mì sandwiches, covered veggie hot dogs with barbecue mayo, and dipped sweet potato fries into the tartar sauce. The possibilities are endless for what to do with these six new flavors, but what’s even more delicious is FYH’s dedication to GMO-free food—the company partnered with the Non-GMO Project in February.
Vegan foods took home blue ribbons aplenty in 2012, leaving a trail of successes in their wake. Sticky Fingers Bakery’s Doron Petersan claimed her second winning title on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, a dairy-free grilled-cheese sandwich by Gwendolyn Mathers of Compassion Over Killing scored one of the top trophies at April’s revered Grilled Cheese Invitational, Brooklyn-based vegan bakery Dun-Well Doughnuts dominated the covetable category of New York City’s Best Doughnut, and Berkeley’s Cinnaholic was honored in the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” roll call. Plus, VN columnist Hannah Kaminsky took top honors in bravo.com’s Around the World in 80 Plates blog competition. Looks like vegan food speaks for itself—and comes out on top!
While veteran vegans have known the many health benefits of a plant-based diet for decades, many celebs are new to its perks this year. Funnyman Ben Stiller and wife Christine Taylor made going plant-based a family affair, and Anne Hathaway accredited her crazy-good Catwoman bod for The Dark Knight Rises to a wholesome vegan regimen. Scarlett Johansson got into shape by embracing veggies and fresh juice, but the trend wasn’t just for young pups; Hollywood veteran Michelle Pfeiffer and legendary singer Chaka Khan went veg to ward off health problems. Do we smell a who’s-who of Hollywood dinner party, hosted by longtime vegan (and media darling) Jessica Chastain? Fingers crossed!
Long gone are the days (of 2011) when Emily Deschanel’s decision to remain vegan during pregnancy sparked controversy—vegan moms are dominating the media realm this year. Emmy-nominated actress, author, and neuroscience PhD Mayim Bialik penned Beyond the Sling about attachment parenting while yoga-guru-to-the-stars Latham Thomas launched Mama Glow, a lifestyle website, along with a companion book. Alicia Silverstone’s vegan son Bear Blu might someday read Crazy Silly Kids, an e-guide for plant-powered children forthcoming from writer Corinne Bowen and New York Times best-selling author Kris Carr. We salute the vegan mamas who are teaching compassion to the next generation.
Diet for a New America, 25 years later
It may seem like just yesterday that John Robbins’ Diet For A New America landed in bookstores, but the landmark book actually celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated international bestseller was one of the first comprehensive volumes about why a plant-based diet is one of the most simple and profound ways that we can change ourselves, our environment, and the animals we share it with. To commemorate its silver anniversary, the book is being re-released with a new introduction from the author. After influencing hundreds of thousands of people over a quarter of a century, the book continues to deliver compelling arguments for why veganism truly is the diet for a new America.
Bonus Veggie Award: Year of the Marine Animal
Worldwide awareness for the plight of marine mammals has been building for several years, starting with Animal Planet’s Whale Wars and followed by Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. Still, in 2012 the wave crested higher. Former Flipper trainer and current anti-captivity advocate Ric O’Barry re-released his classic Behind the Dolphin Smile, while investigative journalist David Kirby authored Death at SeaWorld, in which he greatly condemns keeping killer whales in bowls. In celluloid, professional surfer Dave Rastovich debuted his documentary Minds in the Water, and the Free Willy foundation promoted Keiko: The Untold Story, chronicling the return of the cetacean movie star to Icelandic waters. And on the internet, TheOrcaProject coordinated the efforts of several former marine mammal trainers in educating the public about captivity issues, while news concerning the Patron Saint of all Sea Creatures, the Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson, was everywhere after Watson was apprehended under suspect charges, escaped, and then vowed to remain at sea to avoid further arrest.
For complete features on all of our 2012 Veggie Award winners, pick up the November+December 2012 issue here!