2021 is looking to be a promising year juxtaposed with 2020, but many of the wonderful things in the very near future were put in place during these dark months. Veganism held strong and advanced despite the odds. Celebrities adopted plant-based diets, restaurants continued to serve and more opened their doors for the first time, new products launched, millions of dollars in startup money was raised, and new laws were enacted to promote compassion and sustainability in 2021 and beyond. Here is just a snapshot of the good that came out of this tumultuous year.
1. Support + Feed did just that
What is now a transcontinental effort to support vegan restaurants and provide food for those in need, Support + Feed’s two-fold mission has a ripple effect touching countless lives. The initiative has served nearly 60,000 plant-based meals to food insecure and BIPOC communities in addition to helping 42 vegan restaurants stay afloat amidst the ever-changing dining restrictions. While we wish there was not a need for this kind of work, Support + Feed is a reminder that good can rise from a bad situation.
2. Lizzo went vegan
After posting dozens of mouthwatering vegan how-to videos on TikTok, Lizzo announced in June that she had gone vegan. The mega-entertainer joins the ranks of other celebrities who have committed to (and perhaps unintentionally become spokespeople for) the plant-based lifestyle including Lewis Hamilton, Tabitha Brown, Ellen Pompeo, Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, and more. She may be a relatively new vegan, but her food looks fantastic, and we’re advocating for a primetime Lizzo cooking show in 2021.
3. Joaquin Phoenix gave an Oscar speech we’ll never forget
To accept his award as Best Actor at the 92nd Academy Awards, Phoenix raptured the celebrity audience and the viewers at home with a speech about compassion. He spoke of kindness not only toward humans, but toward animals most people think of as food. He specifically called out the dairy industry, confronting his listeners with their general acceptance to artificially inseminate a female cow, take her baby, and rob her of her milk all for the good of having something to pair with our cereal. Encore in 2021, please.
4. Vegan messaging went mainstream
The vegan message is no longer confined to one-off billboards or the pages of VegNews magazine. From July through September, commercials featuring professional and Olympic dairy-free athletes ran on NBC with the singular message: ditch dairy. The PSAs were funded by Switch4Good—a plant-based nonprofit specifically focusing on the detriments of dairy. In 2020, vegans went bold. People aren’t just seeing ads for dairy alternatives, they’re being told to dump dairy completely.
5. Starbucks leaned into vegan
Realizing that an unveganizable Impossible breakfast sandwich wouldn’t pacify its plant-based customers, Starbucks waded further into vegan territory by introducing vegan-as-is breakfast items to select Seattle locations. The chain further demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by launching oatmilk nationwide. Perhaps 2021 will finally be the year of the vegan PSL.
6. Chef Chloe Coscarelli won her lawsuit
Five years ago, vegan culinary darling Chloe Coscarelli opened her first brick and mortar in New York City. Shortly after, she was terminated from the company, which ironically still bore her name (by CHLOE). The Forbes “30 Under 30” go-getter has since opened her own popup in Miami and collaborated with several esteemed chefs and corporations, but in December, she finally closed the four-year by CHLOE lawsuit and regained possession of her namesake brand.
7. Lab-grown chicken became available to consumers
In Eat JUST’s case, the egg came before the chicken. The vegan food startup (formerly Hampton Creek) had been working on lab-grown chicken for years, but the business first gained fame with its creamy vegan mayonnaise and mung bean-based liquid eggs and patties. The cultured chicken made from cells—not slaughter—is now available as part of a three-course tasting menu at a fine-dining restaurant in Singapore.
8. Tabitha Brown made TikTok’s Top 10
If you’ve ever enjoyed a TTLA at Whole Foods, you have Tabitha Brown to thank. The vegan actress first caught the viral bug after posting a video about her love for the sandwich on social media in 2017. In March of this year, she hopped on the TikTok train and rapidly gained a massive following, earning the number two spot on the platform’s Top 100 trend report. Keep making videos, Tabitha. We’ll keep watching.
9. Delivery has never been more delicious
Craving a vegan pizza from Brooklyn, but live in Seattle? No problem. Want a one-of-a-kind plant-based piecake to celebrate Thanksgiving? It can be delivered to your door. Out of necessity, 2020 became the year of nationwide delivery. Coveted vegan products—from meats to cheeses to sweets—were surrounded with packing peanuts and dry ice to travel across state lines and bring a bit of joy to our quarantined households. Now we know it’s possible, there’s no going back.
10. Nordstrom banned fur
This high-end department store became the first in the US to discontinue the sale of fur and exotic animal skins. The mandate will go into effect in 2021. To all other department stores and fashion retailers: the precedent for cruelty-free fabrics has been set.
11. Bon Appétit Hires First Vegan Chef
This long-standing culinary media company is bounding back after multiple allegations of discrimination and unequal pay set against it in June. Along with implementing more progressive workplace protocols, the brand vastly diversified its staff with a round of new hires. On-boarded in October, Chrissy Tracey provides the Bon Appétit digital sphere with a fresh vegan perspective.
13. McDonald’s announced the McPlant
The highly anticipated vegan burger option at McDonald’s received mainstream attention, though many were more focused on the name rather than the enormous reveal. The fast-food behemoth became the brunt of the joke as social media and news outlets criticized the simplistic name and offered alternative branding options. The Beyond Meat-based patty will be released in yet-to-be-disclosed testing locations in 2021.
13. Lewis Hamilton broke a world record
To win 92 times—no matter what the medium—is a respectable accomplishment in itself. Vegan Formula One race car driver Lewis Hamilton secured a world record this year by earning his 92nd Grand Prix win. Yes, that’s a lot of trophies, but also, that’s a lot of vegan champagne. Raise a glass—goodbye 2020, thanks for at least a few fond memories.
Tanya Flink is a Digital Editor at VegNews as well as a writer and fitness enthusiast living in Orange County, CA.